As the world closely monitors the spread of Coronavirus and makes decisions to protect the health and safety of its citizens, I can’t help but think about the domino effect. While many are scrambling to stock up on toilet paper, Lysol wipes and re-scheduling their spring break reservations, I can’t help but go deeper in the effect it has on those families raising a child with special needs. Not just because some may be more vulnerable to the virus due to a compromised immune system, but because the disruption in the school schedules and now everyday life events.

Here are some helpful tips to prepare for the school closings and the drastic changes in schedules:

  1. Spend the needed time this weekend to prep a routine for the week. Make a visual schedule — it doesn’t have to be perfect. This will allow you to maintain a flow and structure and your child will know what to expect. A visual calendar that will count down the days until your child returns to school is another helpful tool.  
  1. Support your day with sensory breaks, however do not spend the entire day giving sensory input. Too much sensory input can have a reverse effect. It will be more beneficial to have sensory time in spaced out increments. I know they can be happy for hours swinging, rocking, fidget play, etc., but when given all day to do it doesn’t offer the soothing effect overtime. Research shows sensory breaks being offered 15 minutes at a time offer the best support for calming and reduction of behaviors and anxiety throughout the day.  
  1. Don’t let his/her break from school be the moment you pause your efforts toward a behavior strategy you were implementing, toilet training you might have been making strides on, or a routine that you just made progress with. Don’t let this be a vacation, waiting to restart when things go back to normal. Make this your new normal. You can do it. It might look different and be harder, but I know you can do it. If you don’t, you could be starting back at ground zero.  
  1. Talk with your child’s teacher and see if they will send you some materials they were working on that you might practice at home. Set up a “work time” for two 30-minute time periods. More power to you if you can make it more, but don’t overstretch if your child is not used to doing school type of work at home. Build those skills into functional things around the house as you can.  
  1. Try to incorporate movement when possible. Build into your schedule a walk around the neighborhood after lunch each day, or even just step outside into the yard for 5 minutes. It might be advised not to go into public places, but being in the house for that long without the outdoors can cause anxiety and an increase in behaviors. Do what you can to build this in.  
  1. The most important one: self-care. Take a moment for yourself. Don’t try to be a superhero and do it all. Have a plan, be in control of that plan, and take it each day at a time. If that means wine for a nightcap, so be it. Do what you need to get you through.

I am sure you have heard each of these steps a million times. However, in the state of panic with stress levels on high, we tend to forget the basics. We need to be reminded. We need to be told we got this. We need to know people can relate and are cheering us on.  

I am here to say all those things! Don’t get hung up on how hard it will be. Flip the script before it starts. You will figure it out and tackle this just like you have always done. Praying for your patience and your health through this time! And don’t forget to wash your hands.

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