Remote learning: What is it like for autistic students?

On World Autism Awareness Day, students share their experience of remote learning after the closure of colleges

Tes Reporter

Coronavirus college closures: What is remote learning like for autistic students?

Moving to online learning has been a challenge for college staff and students across the country. Today, on World Autism Awareness Day, a group of autistic young people on an inclusive learning course at West London College tell us what the move to studying from home has been like for them.

Coronavirus: What autistic students say about remote learning

George: 'I've begun to enjoy it'

At first, I wasn’t keen on the move to online learning at all, but I have begun to enjoy it. Honestly, I prefer in-class college learning but this is working and I feel as if I am still learning and working towards and progressing my future.

The tasks we are doing are similar to our usual work. This is because we did our work on Google Classroom anyway so it works for us. I’ve enjoyed the accessibility and freedom and there isn’t much I found challenging.

Everything is more in the middle ground of “fine”, but I have found being at home has dragged my mood down. Being out in college physically around people helps me to keep my mood much higher and happier.

David, our tutor, is already a tech-based teacher so he’s supportive, just like he is in class. He gives us advice and comments on our work. I feel that, of course, it is easier for him and us to get support in class but he is doing the best he can with what he is given. Personally, I feel it’s going well.

It has all been a pretty positive experience. It can’t be perfect as it’s all online and has its difficulties, but I think I’m enjoying and learning still, which is the most important thing there can be. I’m glad we’re still doing lessons online, even if I am occasionally struggling to “pop in” due to my moods.


More: How to teach living skills remotely

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Background: Five reasons FE will never be the same again


Tameen: 'I'm getting more work done on time'

The move from college to online classroom has helped me to get more work done on time.

We are doing newsletter articles in order to produce something by the end of term that we can give out to teachers and students via email or the college web page. It is a really fun task to do as a group or as a whole class.

I enjoyed writing an article about World Autism Awareness Day because this can help me give people a better understanding of what autism is.

It has been straightforward ever since the beginning of our isolation period during the coronavirus pandemic – nothing has been overwhelming, things have been OK for me.

The tutor has been very supportive, especially when we all get stuck on something, which is really amazing.

I have a good experience with online learning. It has made my life easy by completing all of my class work at home. I would recommend anyone to do their class work from home as it will help them complete their work as quickly as they can so they can move on to other pieces of work.

Sara: 'Routine can be quite challenging' 

The advantage of learning remotely is that I can sleep longer. After all, it only takes three seconds to join online sessions. I can easily access or let my teacher know if I’m feeling unwell and then join when I’m ready again. The biggest negative was the change in routine.

During our sessions, we are doing coursework, and if I need extra help with my work, I can video call my tutor individually during my spare time. 

We all enjoyed doing our Kahoot! quizzes as a start task.

Routine can be quite challenging. Certain environments for some of us make us more sleepy and a lot of the time some of us forget that we still have college.

Our teachers and learning support assistants have offered individual online help during spare time, if we are lost or stuck on our work.

Holly: 'We also do fitness classes'

I like doing distance learning because it is interesting to be able to see and talk to your classmates online from home. It teaches you to listen to your tutor to find out what your tasks are so that you can learn new things within your college time. We also do fitness classes while we are online to stay healthy and to keep active. I think this will really help people come out of their shells, especially people with social and acute anxiety.  

Jamie: 'I am connecting more with my peers'

When learning moved online, I was a bit anxious about joining an online group chat instead of physically being present at college. I was sceptical that an online group chat would be productive enough to replace an actual classroom session, but I also had low self-esteem about revealing my face on a screen.

However, after my first time on the Google Hangouts chat, I began to feel more assertive and even at times developed an excited feeling. This, in turn, has gradually helped me to gain tons of newfound confidence and sociability, thus slowly connecting more with my peers such as Tameen, Jamie and Sarah, who I can now confidently see as my friends. 

In class, we are doing the same Google Classroom Gatehouse 2 coursework that we had been doing before the outbreak.

If I am being completely honest, the number one thing that I have enjoyed and appreciated over this isolation period is that this online learning routine has become a surprisingly effective replacement for the standard classroom learning.   

 

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