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Supporting Children with Disabilities while Schools are Closed
During this strange time of distance learning, children with disabilities and their parents have weighed heavily on my mind. Many students with disabilities are most successful in predictable routines. School closures and other changes caused by social distancing changed our routines with little warning. Our kids are now facing new routines, new teaching methods, less or different therapy, and less time with people they are used to seeing. We as parents may be seeing our child struggle with these changes. It can be hard to know what resources are available and what our child’s rights are during these unfamiliar times.
If you are feeling these things, please know I am too. I recognize that we are all facing these changes with different levels of available time, emotional support from others, and material resources. Despite these differences, the stared shock to our system, and drastic changes can be unifying. I hope to be a resource to others as I navigate this with my family. Here are a few things that we have implemented inner home that are working well for us.
A Daily Schedule: My son likes to know what to expect. We put a white board on the refrigerator that shows which tasks to expect that day. He marks things off as he completes them and gets to choose a fun activity when all school work is marked off for the day. In the past we printed clip art pictures and taped them to the fridge. This worked well before he was reading.
Physical Activity Breaks: We have learned it is important for our son to be able to get some wiggles out between thinking tasks. For us this often looks like inventing his own exercises or dance moves. We also love the free exercise videos on gonoodle.com
Creative Time: Kinetic sand, painting, coloring, drawing, music, building with legos. It has all been a valuable way to give my child a break from the hard work of learning new things in a new environment within a new routine.
Being Silly: We have been looking for opportunities to laugh together as a family. We are also enjoying the opportunity to present school work in a different way. We recently received worksheets from the school speech therapist about practicing conversations with new people.
We dressed in costumes and donned new personalities to engage my son in these practice conversations. We laughed and learned at the same time.
Taking Notes and Communicating with my Child’s Teacher: I want to be able to look back at this time and feel like I used it as a time to study my son’s learning style in a way that I haven’t before. I want to be able to provide new information and specific examples to feed his IEP moving forward. Last week we learned there are sounds that bother my son when he’s working. Noise from a washing machine and heater don’t typically bother him, but they can become overwhelming when he’s doing hard things like math. It makes me curious about how he is responding to similar noises in the class room. I encourage you to document these observations. Document any regressions that you observe. It is within your right to communicate your observations and concerns with your child’s teacher. If schools in your area are providing educational services to students, then children with disabilities continue to have the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Teachers and parents alike are trying to figure out what that looks like during this time. Creativity and communication are keys to that success.
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