Keys to Coping with Your Child’s Learning Needs During Covid-19
By Michelle Beers
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It’s a new school year and the circumstances we face during this Covid era of education can feel daunting for any parent. If you’ve got a child with special needs, you have even more hurdles to jump to make sure your child is getting the resources they need. It can feel overwhelming to say the least. Whether your child is going back into the classroom, learning virtually or a combination of the two, it can be hard to know if you are doing the right thing or if your kid is getting what they need. It’s enough to create anxiety and doubt already, and if you are a working parent whose special child is learning virtually, you have been left with complications that nobody was prepared to handle.
Read this again though. NOBODY was prepared for this and it is NOT your fault nor your responsibility to figure it ALL out alone. There is no perfect answer, but I’d like to share some thoughts and tips that might help you keep this situation in perspective, and it might be able to make the best of a bad situation.
One Foot in Front of the Other
For starters, the way things are right now will not last forever. Nothing ever does. Public school as we knew it has changed though. Covid-19 will force some policy changes and at some point we will reach a “new normal” that is more predictable and comfortable. For now, let's strip away the tangled mess that is going on outside of your control and focus on what you CAN control.
Your child needs certain things to help set them up for success. And those things are attainable from home too. Kids on the spectrum specifically need structure and predictability. You can enforce those things at home with daily schedules, visual cues and giving your child a sense of control over this situation by giving them some predictable choices. Check out another article in this edition - Parent Resources to Help Students with ASD Thrive During Remote Learning - for more tips and tricks to build skills at home with your child.
Be Kind to Yourself
Kids also need to feel safe and secure. Parents are feeling insecure about what’s going on because it’s new to us too. We also tend to internalize our kid’s successes and failures, triumphs and fears. We are feeling at least double whatever they are feeling. But understand, if you can meet their basic needs, they WILL be just fine. There might be some regression and skill losses during this time that feel frustrating. And it’s OKAY. They WILL regain and relearn those skills if they had them before. And at some point we WILL be on the other side of this and they will continue to make progress.
Don’t Go At it Alone
Keep in contact with your child’s school and their healthcare providers. YOU are not in this alone and it falls on schools to make sure the resources are provided to meet their IEPs. Seek a parent advocate through your school district to make sure you have all the information and your child is having their academic needs met and be honest with them about your needs at home and the realities of what your child may or may not have access to. Make sure your child’s doctors, therapist and other care providers are aware of any changes in behaviors, regressions and needs that arise. They can work with you to make a plan. Keep the lines of communication open.
Then, take it one step at a time and KNOW that you do not have to do this alone. There is no perfect solution or perfect parent - but your child CAN become resilient and thrive. Be patient with yourself, your kids and with the other people and professionals in your children’s lives. We are all in this together and it’s not going to be a perfect school year- but it can be a productive one.