Many parents are home alone with their kids as I type and as you read this. The same is happening for parents of special needs children. The difference is the needs of the children. Some special needs children have physical limitations. So long as they are positioned and monitored, they may be able to keep themselves occupied (as much as any child under the circumstance). I will discuss below some tips for sheltering in place with special needs children.
For parents with children with cognitive disorders, a quarantine can be a challenging obstacle. Most children with cognitive disorders benefit from a structured daily routine. This may consist of getting up at the same time, eating breakfast, going to school and afterschool therapies. A disruption of that routine can be challenging not only for the child but also the parent. Here are a few tips to help during the quarantine:
- Set small goals
- Set realistic goals
- Don’t forget therapies
- Use the weather to your advantage
- Set a schedule (preferably at least a day in advance)
Small goals will help relieve any potential anxiety for parents, as well as children. For example, for toddlers and younger children, the goal may be to review a set of flash cards. Maybe on the first few days use of the cards the parent does not stress about correct or incorrect answers, but get the child acclimated to seeing the cards and understanding that the cards will be a part of the learning process. These small goals can help to alleviate any potential anxiety for the children and parents.
Another anxiety relief can come in the form of realistic goal setting. Most of us are not qualified and trained educators for special needs children or licensed to provide therapeutic exercises and parents, NO ONE EXPECTS YOU TO BE! It does not matter if the parents are stay-at-home, scientist, student, police officer, professor, cashier or anything in between, no one is expecting you to turn into Albert Einstein and conquer educating children. Therefore, it is important to set realistic goals. If your two-year old cannot sit still for longer than 10 mins, then it is okay to plan smaller activities or create breaks within the activity in order to allow the toddler to be a toddler.
Another aspect of regular life that may get overlooked during a quarantine or a shelter-in-place situation is therapy. Many parents have concerns that without the structured therapy their child may begin to digress or regress some. A friend of this site who is also a mother of a special needs child, recommends continuing therapies as best you can. You can use the in-home time to set specific times for gait training or using walkers or standers. Often patience is fleeting because we feel we do not have the time to be patient. Remember, you are not a therapist! Although you have sat in and participated in many sessions, this isn’t your job so do not expect to be perfect.
Thankfully we are entering into warmer weather months. Now, you can enjoy the backyard for a little while or take a nice walk around the neighborhood. Remember to use social distancing! Let the weather help you in pre-planning your events. Your child(ren) can do their “work” and you can continue your work on the patio and take breaks to enjoy nature.
We cannot stress enough regarding tips for sheltering in place with special needs children is to plan, but allow flexibility with your planning. Create a calendar for the next “school” day and allow the children to help set activities. Do not forget snack time and N-A-P time if needed.
Your Friends at HIE Resource Place