As the United States braces for the full impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, most schools, day programs, and extracurricular activities have been cancelled for at least two weeks and probably longer. Keeping children busy during this time will be challenging for all parents. But when your child has a significant disability, the demands are even higher.
So, what’s a special needs parent to do? There’s no magic bullet. But we’ve come up with some suggestions for getting you and your children through this unprecedented health emergency.
Talk to your child
Depending upon your child’s developmental level, they have probably heard something about COVID-19. Explain the coronavirus in developmentally appropriate language and give your child the opportunity to ask questions. “Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies,” says the Child Mind Institute. Also explain how this will impact your family. For example, mom and dad will be working from home; school will be cancelled or online, etc.
Maintain a routine
Children, especially those with autism and other developmental disabilities may find schedule changes and unstructured time anxiety-provoking. Develop a schedule that includes wake-up and bedtimes, mealtimes, outdoor activities, learning sessions and free play. Review the schedule every morning, using visual prompts if they are helpful to your child. A Day in Our Shoes.com has printable schedules that you can download and use at home.
Hire a mother’s helper or two
School’s out for everyone, so hire some tweens to come over and supervise your kids. Their parents will thank you! It’ll be a win-win-win!
Tell a story
Story-telling is a great way for parents and children to bond. It’s also a wonderful way for children to learn. But children can benefit from story-telling even when you’re working in another room. Choose some audiobooks and have story-time at least once a day.
Give your kids a sensory treat and make your home more sanitary by setting up a toy-washing station complete with sponges, scrub brushes and bubbles. Consider purchasing one of Enabling Devices’ water toys or bubble toys, so that everyone can join the fun.
It’s hard to find bright spots when you’re experiencing a pandemic, but at least it’s arrived just in time for spring. Make sure to build outdoor-time into your family’s schedule. Note: If playgrounds are part of the plan, make sure to take hand sanitizer and wipes for the equipment.
Try an online exercise program
Regardless of your child’s intellectual or physical limitations, there’s probably an online exercise program that meets their needs. Check out YouTube video workouts from Kym Nonstop, Spark or Scope. You can also try a Yoga for Kids video from Gaia.
Everybody loves slime! Here’s a great recipe from The Best Ideas for Kids!
Board games are not only fun, they teach many valuable skills. Enabling Devices sells many adapted games, so everyone can play.
Don’t let kids fall too far behind in their studies. Scholastic Learn at Home just launched 20 days of free online learning activities for kids stuck at home due to the coronavirus. The lessons are geared to preschoolers to 6th grade and beyond.