Supporting children with additional or special needs can be difficult.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a time that has brought up feelings of anxiety, confusion and uncertainty for everyone. For children with additional needs this time may be even more difficult. As a parent of a child with additional needs, this may be a tough time to make sure that your whole family is able to cope.
Although you know your child best, this does not mean that you have to do everything. It is impossible for one person to do what all the support people were doing before schools closed. You can create a learning space at home. But the focus should be on making sure that you and your child are able to cope emotionally, physically and mentally with the many changes that have come from the pandemic.
How can you support your child’s additional needs in this time?
- Find ways to get the support of those who were helping you before the lockdown, even though you may not be able to physically see them. If your child was seeing a specialist; e.g. teachers, an occupational therapist, an educational psychologist, or a speech therapist, try to communicate with them. They can provide you with activities that your child can continue to do during this lockdown period.
- Use your child’s own interests to support them and build the learning tasks that you are given around those interests.
- Include your child in the day to day activities and chores of the home.
- Try to keep structure in your child’s day where possible.
- Share information with your child about COVID-19 in a way that is appropriate to their age and best fits their need. Use pictures if this is the way your child learns best. You could draw pictures of the things you want them to remember and stick them on the wall in the house.
How can you support your child’s possible behavioural changes?
You may see problem behaviours in your child during this time. This is not because your child is naughty. They may be feeling frustrated, angry, anxious or sad. You may be aware of triggers or situations that cause your child distress in ‘normal’ times.
You can’t always avoid these situations or triggers but you can do the following:
- Be aware of them and the potential distress they may cause.
- Try to prevent your child from experiencing them.
- If you can’t avoid them, provide the time and space for your child to deal with them.
- Try and find ways to help your child express and deal with difficult feelings – asking your child’s teacher for suggestions may be helpful.
- Do things your child enjoys – this may include being physically active because activity triggers a positive feeling the body.
- Keep communicating with your child’s friends as they may be missing them.
How can you take care of yourself as the parent of a child with additional needs?
This is a difficult time for everyone, and if you don’t protect your own mental health it will be harder to take care of your children.
You could do the following to look after yourself:
- Talk to other parents who are going through similar experiences.
- Try and be flexible – if one thing you try doesn’t work, try something else.
- Remember that every contribution you make in your relationship with your child is valuable.
- Check out more resources on this website for looking after yourself as a parent.