How You Can Help Your Child With Special Needs Cope With the Lockdown in Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia | Hit by the lockdowns, perhaps most affected by that disruption are children with special needs. Here are several tips you can do to help your child get through this unprecedented health crisis, adjust to changes, and keep them relaxed.

Following its identification in Wuhan, China in late 2019, the COVID-19 virus has spread rapidly across the world. This triggered many changes in various aspects of our lives, with routine disruption being one of the major effects of the pandemic. 

But while we are all hit by the lockdowns, perhaps most affected by that disruption are children with special needs. They have been particularly vulnerable to the significant changes brought about by the COVID-19 outbreak, most notably the school closures and reductions in extra support services during the lockdown.

Outlined below are some of the major struggles parents of and children with special needs and disabilities faced during this global health crisis. 

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  • Juggling between work from home and school from home. With the additional effort of teaching their children at home on top of showing up virtually for work, numerous parents reported increased stress, worry, and mental health concerns. This eventually burned them out and impacted their capacity to manage their kids with special needs.
  • Finding a routine that works. Kids with special needs are accustomed to routines like going to school, therapies, and returning home, and they like the structure and predictability. With their routine no longer in place, their social and emotional development was severely affected, increasing mental health problems.
  • Less support. Health and social care services, on which many children with special needs and their families rely, were significantly minimized or entirely stopped during the lockdown. This negatively affected the kids’ health and welfare since medical appointments were cancelled, and they no longer had access to essential therapies, including occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, physiotherapy or other specialized help.
  • Financial difficulties. Raising children with special needs already costs roughly thrice as much as raising children without disabilities. As a result, when the pandemic affected the parents’ financial sources, some chose to discontinue medications to save.
  • Resurfacing of problem behaviours. The lockdown resulted in the loss of abilities and skills (such as mobility and communication) among children with special needs, leading to a rise in behavioural and mental health problems. Certain children had angry outbursts, severe sobbing bouts, and other symptoms of emotional dysregulation.
  • Loss of social interaction. Initially, the kids were excited about staying at home and not waking up early for school. However, over time, some started missing their friends and became more anxious about the welfare of the loved ones they could no longer physically interact with.
  • Stalling of developmental progress. Outside-of-school supplementary support and activities – which prevent children with special needs from losing their progress, promote social interaction and routine, and serve as an extra resource for parents – were also impacted by the lockdown. Without these programs and camps, the kids struggled to catch up, negatively affecting their learning and emotional well-being.
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Being a parent or caregiver for a kid with developmental challenges has become significantly more difficult in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear, uncertainty, and being cooped up at home longer to prevent the spread of COVID-19 can make it difficult for young children to keep a sense of calm. However, it is essential to help them feel protected, maintain routines, manage their emotions and behaviour, and develop resilience during these challenging times. 

Here are several tips you can do to help your child get through this unprecedented health crisis, adjust to changes, and keep them relaxed.

  • Simply and truthfully answer questions regarding the pandemic. Attempt to explain the current situation using all modes of communication (words, pictures, music, etc.) that your youngster understands. This might mean that you have to repeat it multiple times for several days to ensure that they grasp the idea.
  • Connect with your family and friends, as well as other parents and children. Consult with other parents to see which activities, games, and methods appear to be effective for coping with the long school break. You can also set up safe video chats with loved ones, especially those that your kids miss or worry about.
  • Maintain healthy routines. With daily routines disrupted due to school and non-essential establishment closures, it is essential now more than ever to develop a new daily structure. They give a sense of order to the day, providing reassurance at this highly uncertain period.
  • Spend as much time with your kid outdoors as possible while practising physical distancing. This will exercise your kid and provide them with a form of relaxation. Regular exercise can also help children with developmental problems, such as autism spectrum disorder, maintain a normal sleep cycle that improves their physical and emotional health.
  • Play soothing music. Music has an inherent capacity to drown out background noise and establish the atmosphere for an environment. Make sure to select only calm and typically pleasant music.
  • Establish a small, private space for your child. Occasionally, kids with special needs require their own personal place where they can shut out excess noise and visual disturbances and escape from their current surroundings if they become overwhelmed. Consider purchasing a tiny tent or making a small book nook in your house where your youngster can easily go for a break.
  • Practice slow, deep breathing exercises with your kid. Show them how to do deep breaths and let them copy you. If necessary, teach your youngster to draw a square or figure-8 with their finger to assist with pacing their breathing.
  • Consider some yoga. Slow breathing, stretching, muscular tensing, and focus on maintaining a pose can be quite grounding and soothing for your kid. Introduce this in a playful manner, for example, through a children’s yoga program or a YouTube video.
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Bear in mind that not every activity will work for your child. Specific activities will not come naturally to them. But whichever method you decide to implement, make sure to introduce and practice these activities with your child before bringing them up during a stressful situation. Allow your kid to choose a relaxing activity whenever possible, as well. Choices can be communicated orally or visually, such as a choice board.

If your kid struggles with sensory processing, a more structured and guided approach may be beneficial. Claim your FREE 20-Min Phone Chat with our senior psychologist, Françoise Nicoloff below now!

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