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Pandemic continues to impact kids’ learning

If you are a parent or you’ve spoken with parents about the impacts the pandemic has had on their kids – particularly in terms of online education – you know or have heard about the real struggle kids and parents are facing.

Indeed, some students have continued to do well. Some parents comment that their introverted child does well working alone. Others may offer that their highly motivated and high-achieving youngster remains motivated.

But those are not the majority of families’ experiences, and research tells the broader story of how difficult the pandemic and online learning have been for students, parents, and teachers.

Mental Health

According to EdWeek: “Since the pandemic began, children and adolescents have higher rates of anxiety, depression, and stress, and even more specific issues such as addictive internet behaviours.”

The publication quotes the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as reporting that in six months after the initial pandemic lockdowns, there was a 24 percent increase in the number of children between the ages of five and 11 who visited an emergency department because of a mental health crisis when compared to that same period in 2019. CDC also reported that “among 12- to 17-year-olds, the number increased by 31 percent.”

Children may also suffer mental health issues because their parents are suffering. Job loss during the pandemic has been devastating to many families.

Academic success and social development

The American Psychological Association has recently written that students are motivated by their peers through the connectedness they have in a school setting – something that has now been taken away from them.

“Allison Ryan, PhD, a professor in the combined education and psychology program at the University of Michigan, recently studied middle school students from more than 50 math and science classrooms, and she found that those who felt like they had friends and teachers who cared about them found classwork was more interesting, were more engaged in school, and were more confident that they could complete their work (Kilday, J.E. and Ryan, A.M., Contemporary Educational Psychology, Vol. 58, 2019).”

Socialization delays are also expected due to a lack of in-person interactions where children learn from personal cues and through being able to practice these skills.

The APA article further points out that children with ADHD or other “behavioural disorders” are “likely to suffer academically and psychologically during distance learning.”

Lehigh University’s George DuPaul, Ph.D. at Lehigh University, has researched this group of students and says: “They are already at risk of academic difficulties, peer relationship problems, and other mental health issues. Distance learning is an accelerator of these existing challenges.”

Parents have told DuPaul that parent-child conflicts have grown because of little access to in-person special education services.

When it comes to learning disabilities, many students can't simply focus in spaces that are not specified for schoolwork.

Elizabeth Warner, a first-year psychology student at the University of Ottawa and who has learning differences, told The Fulcrum that “online learning has had a negative impact on her ability to focus. ‘At home, there are just too many distractions.’”

Learning differences impact (to varying degrees and with a variety of combinations) a person’s ability to learn to read or write, do the math, and/or interfere with executive functions like organization skills and impulse control. Routines like getting up each morning and going to school help these challenges by providing day-to-day structure.

Online learning has taken away this delineation of time and space and “can make days feel monotonous and lacking in variety, which has had a severe impact on disabled student’s ability to stay focused.” (The Fulcrum)


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