With many parents having now faced the challenges of educating children at home, due to the pandemic, it is more important now than ever before to be properly prepared for such an occurrence should it ever happen again. The challenges for all parents are not the same, however.
Parents with special needs children face a unique set of challenges that can vary from parent to parent and from child to child. At times it can feel overwhelming, having to cater to every need of your special child all on your own, however, it is important to stay calm, and to remind yourself that this is all for the benefit of the child.
There are a number of ways to make this entire situation easier for both you and your child, here are a few tips to help you along the way.
Talk to the Teachers
If your child is having a particularly hard time with school, it is best to talk to their teacher. Teachers for special needs children are trained to help with their special needs and can offer you the best advice on how to deal with tricky situations.
If necessary, work with them to create and understand an Individual Learning Plan, to ensure your child gets the best education they can. Make sure to set realistic goals for what you can achieve at home.
Connect with other Parents
Social distancing does not mean you can’t make new friends over the internet. Look for other parents and children in similar situations. Going through this alone can be very challenging, so try and make friends who understand what you’re dealing with, and who can offer advice and share their own experiences. This could help your child too, as you could set up video chats with other special needs children, or even with close family and friends.
Give the Child a Sense of Control
Remember that your child is also experiencing an unusual time by having to stay at home. In order to mitigate some of the worse effects of being confined all day, let your child have some choice in how the house is run. For example, let them choose what you make for dinner, and let them help you prepare it.
Encourage them to take up fun hobbies that they may have not tried before, so they may have something to do on their own. Start family games or activities that they can participate in, and encourage them to think of more games and activities to try. Giving them a sense of control over their lives and surroundings can alleviate some of the stress resulting from having to stay at home all day.
Limit Study Time
Pay attention to how long your child seems to be able to focus on studying, think back to occasions where you might have helped them with their homework. Use these to make an estimate at how long it’s best for them to spend on studying.
Also make sure to consider their age when making the schedule, as younger children are likely to have a shorter attention span than older children. Between study, sessions make sure to give them plenty of time to relax, play games, or engage in their hobbies.
Make sure your child gets a healthy amount of exercise during the day. While going to the gym may not feasible during a pandemic, there are other ways to work out. Go on a walk, work out at home, or just have a dance party. Don’t push your child too hard, it’s important to have fun while you work out.
Talk to Your Child
Explain to your children what’s happening in the world, and make sure they fully understand. Explain to them the new rules they have to follow during the pandemic, and where these rules apply. For example, they don’t need to socially distance themselves from you at home. Listen to how they feel, and let them know that the situation has you feeling down as well. Encourage them to share and problems or frustrations they might have, so you can work those out together.
Special needs children often don’t cope well with sudden changes in routine, and if your children are used to going out often, staying at home all the time will be a massive change for them. It won’t be easy for them to adapt, so be patient with them, with time they will adapt, and all the growing pains of the beginning will be distant memories.