As a recent study shows, parenting during a pandemic presents additional concerns for those of children with additional needs. As well as perhaps trying to cover educational materials, you may also be concerned with filling the roles that speech therapists, physical therapists, and other professional caregivers may usually hold in your child’s life. The good news is that for many children with additional needs, home schooling can be hugely beneficial, but for parents, keeping everything else covered will mean being focused on your priorities and knowing where to tap into online support.
Meeting your child’s physical needs
Around 1 in 6 children in Ohio has a documented additional need; these are most commonly speech and language related, but also include a need for physical therapy to aid movement, build strength and improve flexibility. Of course, you will know your own child best, and hopefully you will have access to their usual team online or via organizations (in Ohio, for example, it would be OCALI), but if you’re in any doubt at all, ensuring that these areas of therapy are prioritized is a great place to start. Even conditions with a variety of causes and behaviors – there are, for example, several different types of cerebral palsy – can respond well to regular motor skills practice, speech therapy and muscle building exercises.
Building positive mental health
The latest CDC data shows that 7% of children have diagnosed anxiety. Children with additional needs may find the current global situation more unsettling and anxiety-inducing than others, so as a parent, your goal should be to equip your child with techniques to express their feelings, help them to find things to be positive about, and let them know it’s okay to not be okay. Perhaps you could find an artistic outlet together, such as painting, drawing or even making up little poems, or encourage each other to think of small everyday things you can be thankful for.
Take some time
As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty jug, so make sure that you are also finding a little time to look after your own needs too. Whether it’s an early morning walk, a late evening bath, or a short podcast at lunchtime while your child naps or watches a cartoon, be kind to yourself. You’re parenting at an extraordinary time.
Many parents all over the world are juggling work, home schooling and the day to day stuff like laundry, grocery shopping and food prep. If your child has additional needs, you may also be trying to play the part of their speech or physical therapist too. Don’t be afraid to reach out for support – many professionals have now adapted to offer help online – and remember to give yourself a break where you can.