Finding the balance: ASD parents still adjusting to students learning online

Even for parents who are able to work from home, trying to play the role of teacher isn’t an easy task
Jen Motyka works with daughter Nova on ASD Virtual
Jen Motyka works with daughter Nova on ASD Virtual(Scott Gross)
Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 4:51 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Jen Motyka is a mother of two-grade school children in the Anchorage School District: fifth-grader Talon and second-grader Nova. With the school year starting online to begin with, Motyka feels fortunate to be able to work from home and help her children with school work.

“There’s a big learning curve,” Motyka said. “I think parents are kind of expected to learn this whole program. Same for the teachers, they are learning it as they go.”

Two weeks in, Motyka is still trying to find the balance between home and work.

“The problem is trying to get emails in, make phone calls or work on my own things in between calls for help,” Motyka said.

Motyka enrolled her kids into the ASD Virtual Program which allows her to set the pace of learning each day while also keeping her kids connected to their school. Despite the advantages of being home and the flexibility of the virtual program, Motyka still struggles. Especially when her daily schedule changes because of internet outages and teachers having to reschedule zoom sessions

Jen Motyka works with son Talon on online studies
Jen Motyka works with son Talon on online studies(Scott Gross)

“So it has been an adjustment,” Motyka said. “For example, this morning I got an email that the teacher was having trouble with her internet so we had to move a zoom until one, so when those last minute things happen, it’s hard for me to adjust my work in order to help them.”

Motyka says both children have adjusted well but they both have different needs. Talon is very good with self direction and she steps in to help with experiments or a word he doesn’t know. Jen’s daughter Nova, a second grader, needs more attention.

“I really have to sit with her through the whole thing, I can’t just leave her to do it on her own,” Motyka said.

Motyka says as a mother she is learning patience and plenty of grace through this time. She’s not a trained teacher and that makes the experience a challenge.

“My son learns in one distinct way and my daughter in another way,” Motyka said. “Teachers have the training in order to differentiate and adjust their teaching styles for that. I don’t have any training of that sort so, for me, even though they are my kids, I’m not a professional, I don’t know how to teach.”

Motyka acknowledges that many families do not have some of the advantages she does. Some parents are still struggling in deciding what to do. To stay home with their elementary students and lose out on work, hire help or live with the fear of their children being unattended.

“There is no perfect solution but everyone is trying their best to figure it out and make the best of it,” Motyka said.

Some families are still without internet service and others are still in need of Chromebooks. Families that need these items are asked to contact their schools.

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