Helping Children with Special Needs Cope with COVID-19
Children with special needs might be at increased risk for complications from COVID-19, and the pandemic’s overall impact remains unknown but may be significant and long-lasting, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics website HealthyChildren.org.
There currently is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. However, there are things parents and caregivers can do to keep themselves and their children with special needs safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.
1. Prepare your home
Hand washing is one of the most important ways to stay protected from COVID-19. Parents should put signs on the door to their child’s room to remind everyone to wash their hands often, and for at least 20 seconds. If possible, they should keep plenty of hand soap, tissues, wipes and hand sanitizer on hand. Make kits or hand-washing stations, if needed.
2. Clinic and therapy appointments
Parents should talk with their child’s pediatrician, specialists, therapists, or anyone else who cares for the child about upcoming appointments. If a decision is made to delay an appointment, caregivers should ensure they know how to get in touch with the doctor if they have any concerns about the child’s health or behavior.
If the appointment is necessary, there may be changes in how the child receives services, such as getting lab draws in a different location or going to a separate waiting area to be seen. Doctors also may suggest other ways to meet, such as by phone, Skype, FaceTime, or another tele-health option.
Talk to the child’s pediatrician about getting extra medicines or supplies that they need, including any nutrition supplies. If the child is on a special diet or requires a specific type of supplement, be sure to have enough on hand.
If the child requires protective masks, avoid stockpiling them, but make sure to have enough to last for a few weeks. If they need assistance with ordering extra supplies, they should talk with the child’s pediatrician or a care coordinator.
4. School closings
School closing and other changes in routine can be stressful, so parents need to talk with their child about why they are staying home and what their daily structure will be during this time. For more information, go to HealthyChildren.org and download Working and Learning from Home During the COVID-19 Outbreak.
5. Community supports and services
During times of change and uncertainty, it’s even more important to stay connected. Reach out to peer support organizations for local information specific to children with special needs and disabilities. For a list of organizations supporting those with special needs, go to Care.com.
Social distancing does not mean these children are alone. Families, though, may need help with basic needs such as groceries or food delivery, ride shares and getting medications.
6. Coping and staying strong
Parents need to talk with their child, acknowledge their fears and allow them to express their emotions. Caregivers need to remember to take time for themselves and engage in self-care activities:
- Recognize when a break is needed
- Connect with other families virtually through video chats, social media or texting
- Take deep breaths, meditate and engage in physical activity
Do an activity/hobby the child enjoys or something that makes them comfortable. For information on creating a sensory room, for example, for a child with autism, go to VeryWellHealth.com.
Parents and caregivers must monitor the child’s emotional health during this time. Extended time at home and restrictions away from school may cause anxiety and concern. Maintain routines, connect with friends virtually, and remember to take time for family.
For more information, go to HealthyChildren.org.
*Disclaimer: Any health and wellness content presented is for general informational purposes only. Such content is not intended to replace or serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.