For Families

Approaching academics the AIMS way

August 28, 2020

I say academics! You think… work, work and more table work, right? Just thinking about that makes me want to take a break. Well, the truth is that there may be some table work that we just can’t avoid, but learning doesn’t stop there. That being said, it is such a beautiful thing to embrace the learning opportunities beyond the table, chair, paper and pencil. I want to share with you how my friend (diagnosed with ASD) and I (an AIMS therapist) approach his academics the AIMS way. 

It may be called upon some of our kids to acquire and revise academic concepts, as part of a curriculum, in a more structured, seated manner. We, specifically, receive a weekly homework pack from school as well as additional work booklets to be completed on a daily basis. Does that all sound overwhelming? Perhaps at first, so let’s explore ways to help our kids (and ourselves) feel more at ease and find the fun in learning.

Here are some tips to try when approaching table top work:

  1. Create an allocated workspace conducive for learning. We want our kids to feel calm in this area and know what to expect when entering this space. Keep things organised with easy access to working materials and minimal distractions. For more guidelines, check out our previous blog creating a “perfect environment” at home. Also, it’s important for our kids to know that if things become too overwhelming they can move away from this space for a while, go to their chill space and return when they’re ready.   Here is a link to our blog:
  2. Ready to work? Let’s check in with our kids before getting started and frequently during the sessions. The optimal zone of regulation for learning is the green zone. In reality, we all shift away from this zone at times and it can be challenging. Setting up a choice board with coping strategies can support our kids in self-regulating.   
  3. Visual schedules. This is a great visual tool to bring a sense of calm and cool to academics. It keeps things more predictable, organised and helps our kids during work and break transitions.     
  4. Staying on track. I don’t know about you, but we find it so satisfying to check off tasks that we’ve completed. We sure do love giving hi5s, thumbs up and words of affirmation along the journey. Still, ensure that the external motivation remains sincere.Creating a checklist can help monitor progress, support independence and develop internal motivation. It may also be beneficial to use timers, while building on work tolerance time, as a cue for more frequent breaks about every 15-20 minutes to sustain attention. Another cool tip to stay engaged is to swap out the chair for an exercise ball. Not only does this improve core stability and posture, but the bouncing can have a calming effect. 
  5. Take a “break.” It’s so important to incorporate regular movement breaks and sensory activities within these work sessions to support learning and self regulation. Some of our favourites are moving and grooving to a dance along video together, playing with slime or going to the chill space (where no demands or expectations exist). Placing a break card within vision on the table may be an effective visual prompt for our kids to request a break. Alternatively, gestural prompts like stretching out your arms with a yawn may help our kids recognize the signs for taking a break. 
  6. The power of technology. I’m not implying to use iPad time as a reinforcer for completing table work, but rather to incorporate it as a supplementary tool for learning with some excitement. We are so fortunate, in this day and age, with the advancement of technology and accessibility of resources. We can use it positively in many ways such as 
  • play soothing background music
  • type out work (if writing brings frustration or simply as a fun alternative)
  • learn academic concepts through diagrams, educational games, videos and songs (we love to sing)
  • do age-appropriate research on topics   

I hope you find some tips useful in approaching table work with your child. Now for the really exciting part. A child’s learning experience can be enhanced through them engaging in interest-based activities and increasing awareness of their surroundings. Currently, we’ve been learning about the solar system at school and so I came up with some interest-based activities to do at home that revolve around this theme. Here are some fun, practical ideas that integrate academic concepts beyond the table and books:

  • Science experiments. This has got to be our favourite way of exploring science concepts. A cool experiment to try is making moon rocks. Take note: it can get your hands (and kitchen) messy, but it’s super fun. All you’ll need is 4 cups baking soda, 1/4 cup water, glitter and black food colouring. In a large bowl, mix the together soda and water. Then add the glitter and food colouring; stir together. You can explore with the moon sand and then go ahead to form the moon rocks. Mould the sand with your hands to form rocks and press your fingers into it to form craters on the surface. Have fun exploring! 
  • Spelling scramble. If your child loves the alphabet song and spelling out words then this one is for you. Write down a list of words (in this case I used the names of each planet) and cut out each letter. Then, word by word, scramble the letters and get your child to unscramble the letters. It’s a great way to learn the names of the planets and target problem solving skills too.   
  • Cool crafts. There are just so many craft ideas online from painting to modelling clay and making models from recycled materials. We used modelling clay to make each planet. You can then go ahead to discuss the different sizes, colours, properties and even line them up in the correct order from the sun.   
  • Role-play. Let’s explore how the sun and Earth move together in space. Allow your child to pick which one they’d like to be. Okay, so your child wants to be the sun – warm, vibrant and the centre of the solar system; you can be Earth – supporting life. Now, let’s act it out – your child will rotate while staying on the same spot while you rotate and spin around them. You can even call on the moon if you have an extra person and further discuss the time taken to rotate and orbit.        
  • “Treasure” hunts. Set up a quest to return all the planets back to the sun’s force. Hide cut outs of the planets around the house and write out some clues to find them (it may help to add some hints). An example of a clue would be: look in the coldest place in the house (freezer) to find the coldest planet (Uranus). This activity is great to increase spatial awareness too. 
  • Maths movement game. We sure do love maths, especially multiplication, so when it’s time for a break we like to play this game. Write some multiplication problems onto cards and leave the answers blank. At the bottom, write down a movement such as star jumps. The number of star jumps equals the answer to the problem (careful for aiming too high with the answers unless you’re feeling energetic).   

Thanks for reading! If you’re searching for more ideas on interest-based activities, you can check out the AIMS Global Instagram and Facebook accounts as well as the website. 

Let’s learn and grow together!

– Kimberley, an AIMS Global therapist