This year has been challenging for families throughout the UK due to COVID-19. But for families who have children with special needs and disabilities, times are extremely challenging. A huge disruption to routine, appointment cancellations, shielding, lack of respite – there are so many things causing parents and children anxiety and stress.
Please know that SpecialKids Company is thinking of you all during this tricky time. We hope in this blog to give you some ideas how to help your children at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The most important thing to remember is the popular special needs parent motto of ‘whatever works’. Do whatever works best for your family and try not to worry about what other families are doing or compare yourself to them. It’s important to be kind to yourself navigating your way through this time and take each day as it comes.
Create a Social Story and use Symbols/PECS to communicate change
It might be beneficial to create a social story to explain to your child why things have changed and what you can and cannot do at the moment. It’s difficult for us as adults to get our head around the world as we know it is suddenly changing, it is incredibly difficult for children with special needs.
Social stories and symbols can be used to communicate change and what is happening as well as the importance of things such as hand washing and the need for social distancing.
Create your own routine
Children with special needs, particularly autism, often find routine to be helpful and comforting. It can help children to engage and prevent problems with behaviour. As such, you might find it beneficial to create a daily routine. You could use a social story again or a ‘now and next’ board to help communicate what you are going to do and when. If appropriate, you could take into account any homeschooling activities.
Communicating with others, particularly during a time like this, is important and sharing ideas is always helpful. Speaking to parents who walk a similar path, health professionals and your child’s teaching staff might help you to think of activities and things to do to help you both during this period. It will also help you to feel less isolated. You are not alone.
Fun activities at home
There are lots of fun activities that you can carry out at home. From having a picnic, sensory play, music time and reading books. Here are some great ideas that we have previously shared at SpecialKids Company.
This leads us on to something very important…
Guilt-free screen time
Children with special needs often find comfort in watching specific shows things on television and using tablets, such as an iPad. Perhaps they like to watch YouTube or play games. Try not to feel guilty if your child is doing this more than usual. If it helps to keep them happy and calm during this difficult time, then it can’t be a bad thing.
Just remember ‘whatever works’. Be kind to yourself!
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Swimming is a fantastic inclusive activity to do with children with special needs. It’s a great sensory experience that is good fun and has positive benefits for both physical and mental health. It is also an activity that can be done all year round and doesn’t have to be weather dependent (depending on where you choose to swim!).