Helping Special Needs Kids Deal With Schedule and Routine Changes
As the parent of a special needs child, you have probably put a lot of time and effort into creating a routine that works for your family. You’ve ideally figured out the right lineup of activities and social time, the right mix of therapies and appointments, and, if your child is grade school age, an individualized education plan (IEP) that’s tailored to fit his or her learning style.
That’s why it’s so hard to see your child’s schedule—a routine that may bring comfort and familiarity—go out the window with the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. As you and your family adjust to a new reality of working from home, educating from home and social distancing, we have some ideas to help.
Talk about it. If you haven’t already, find a way to discuss what’s going on with your child in a way that’s age and developmentally appropriate. Remain reassuring, but be honest. Validate your child’s disappointment and grief over canceled events, missed friends or disrupted activities. Regressions are to be expected.
Make a new routine. If a routine helped reassure your child before, it can help now in these uncertain times. Start with your typical schedule: You’ll still want your kids to get up, eat breakfast and get dressed each day. Try to incorporate gross motor activities that work for your child, like bike rides, yoga or walks. Also set aside time for family activities—scavenger hunts, board games or puzzles are all good options, depending on your child’s interests. Ask for your child’s input, and make the family schedule something visual.
Tailor your education plan. If your child has an IEP, you’ll want to talk to your school about how this will translate to distance learning. Will there be one-on-one instruction? Lessons that include modifications? See if your child’s teacher can help you set goals to work toward at home.
Keep up virtually. In addition to online learning, your child may be able to keep up with regular therapy appointments through telemedicine. Remember, it may take some time to adjust to the new process. Also encourage your child to talk to friends and family members over video calls. If your child’s anxiety becomes especially serious, call your pediatrician to ask about virtual mental health services.
Focus on the positive. While everyone is facing fear and the unknown, try to enjoy your time with your child. Make a list of things you’d like to do together—maybe cook a new food, create a piece of art or read a favorite book aloud. Think of ways you could help or virtually reach out to others, whether they are families in your special needs community, the elderly or healthcare workers.
If you need some new ideas to stay active and creative, FOCUS + Fragile Kids has activities to keep your kiddos’ minds and bodies engaged. You’ll also find workshops on subjects like special education during school closures.
Speak With a Special Needs Lawyer
Planning is more important than ever right now. At Nadler Biernath, we’re happy to be able to support families as they navigate this ongoing crisis. We have experience handling all aspects of special needs planning. Call us today at 770-999-9799 to schedule your initial consultation (conducted virtually) to discuss how we can help your loved ones. Stay safe and healthy!