How to Help Children with Special Needs During Covid-19
The coronavirus pandemic has affected every area of our lives over the past several months. But for those of us who have children with special needs, COVID-19 has presented a series of special challenges. Schools, businesses, and mental health facilities have all been closed or offered only limited resources for months.
For many children with special needs, disruptions to their schedule aren’t just an inconvenience – they’re a major setback that can slow their progress and take a significant toll on the entire family. One way you can be proactive and take action is to provide your child with special needs with access to special counseling. Most mental health professionals are offering virtual counseling options at this point and many may even offer distanced in-person sessions for children who cannot benefit from or interact with virtual communication.
Consistency Is Key
Many children with special needs – especially those on the autism spectrum – require scheduling and consistency to function properly. Their emotional, mental, behavioral, social, and academic performance can all be negatively affected by disruptions to their schedule. Since the pandemic takes precedent and you have very little control over the regulations and societal changes being put into place, you have to do what you can to build a “new normal” for your child.
Virtual counseling can help prevent regression and keep your child progressing and learning new skills. For example, if your child is being treated with the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) model, they have to see their therapist at regular intervals for the therapy to work. This is how they develop coping and communication techniques. To help keep consistency, make sure that you talk to your therapist about scheduling appointments at the same time and on the same days every week.
Take Notes During Sessions
We know you’re likely already working very closely with the educators, therapists, and health professionals that work with your child. And you’re likely reading all the books, applying all the techniques, and attending all the classes. But when your child is not able to access the resources they need to develop – physical therapist, counselor, speech therapist – you tend to step into those roles. And that is a very overwhelming place to be – especially if you are trying to work at the same time.
So while your child is attending their virtual sessions, sit in with them, and take notes. Interact with your child and the counselor simultaneously to model the new social behavior for your child. And ask lots of questions about how you can further their progress from home.
Care for Yourself
We know you’ve heard this so many times as the parent of a child with special needs, but you must take care of yourself in order to care properly for someone else. This means self-care and probably therapy for yourself. Counseling can help provide you with the tools you need to work through your anxiety about COVID-19, the stress of your schedule changing, and the pressure of raising a child with special needs while also dealing with the fallout of a global pandemic.
Your child takes their cues from you. If you are scattered and alarmed and angry – they will be too. But if you are caring for yourself, you can be calm, transparent, and proactive, which will also rub off on them. Remember, it is not selfish to practice self-care. When you care for yourself, you teach your child that it is important to care for themselves and that the feelings of others matter.
If you would like to schedule an appointment for yourself or your child with special needs, contact Chenal Family Therapy for more information. We’re happy to schedule a time for you to meet with a therapist and explore your virtual counseling options.