What a year we are having - 2020 has given us a world-wide pandemic, COVID-19 – something we could never have imagined or predicted a year ago. This is, without a doubt, a difficult time for families to navigate their way through, but particularly families with children who have special needs.
In this blog, SpecialKids Company aims to guide you through how to support your special needs child during COVID-19.
Explaining COVID-19 to your special needs child
It’s important to be concise and clear if you are explaining COVID-19 to children with special needsyour child. Whilst it’s important that they understand the situation, it’s critical that they are not overwhelmed or that the information increases any anxieties. For example, you could let them know that COVID-19 is a virus, which makes people unwell and that it’s important to follow certain rules to ensure that you stay fit and healthy.
You might find a social story helpful to do this, as well as breaking down and explaining other important things such as:
Social stories can be reassuring for children with special needs as they help them to understand changes in routine and environment. There are lots of resources available online, however your child’s school or speech and language therapist might also be able to help you to prepare one.
Creating a routine for you children during COVID-19
COVID-19 and the current changes to routine may be particularly confusing and upsetting for children with special needs. Unexpected changes are often the most difficult for children to cope with. Lots of children with special needs, particularly autism, find that a daily routine provides comfort and reduces anxiety. It enables them to know what to expect. With this in mind, creating your own routine may help to support your child during the pandemic. Routine might come naturally, however if it doesn’t, you could create a timetable of the things that you will do every day.
Managing anxiety in children with special needs
Understandably, your child may be feeling anxious during this time. It’s a good idea to look at ways to help to manage their anxiety, such as things that help to keep them calm when they are feeling upset. Perhaps they have a certain sensory toy that they find comforting or they find a quiet space beneficial. Maybe it’s bouncing on a trampoline or even deep pressure stimulation, which can be provided by hand or by a weighted blanket or weighted clothing. If your child has an Occupational Therapist, they might be able to provide you with some advice on pressure stimulation or sensory seeking activities that you can carry out.
We understand that this may be a really challenging time for you. Please speak to your GP if you feel that you are not coping and reach out to those who can help you, such as your support network of professionals as well as family and friends.
Looking after yourself
We know it's not easy looking after a disabled child and finding time for yourself at the best of times, but if you can try and set some routines and boundaries around being at home this will help you keep a good balance mentally and take care of 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!).