The coronavirus has caused many schools to switch to online learning or shutter altogether for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. This has shifted parents into a teacher role at home — and it’s not easy for anyone.
While every parent has to deal with the sudden change (some while also juggling full-time jobs), parents of children with autism or special needs are taking on even more. Not only are they their child’s teacher now, but they may have to also act the part of speech therapist, occupational therapist, and more.
David Warner is the father of a nine-year-old boy with autism. His son is verbal but struggles with speech and typically gets help in that area at school. Now that Warner is responsible for his son’s learning at home, he’s recognizing just how much support his child depends on on a daily basis — and, in turn, all of the roles he now has to take on.
“You know, obviously you forget how much support and things are around your child until you really have to do everything,” Warner told ABC 15 News. “It’s very difficult to take a child where you have maybe an aid or somebody with your child every day, and then one day you wake up, and you’re like, ‘I’m the aid, I’m the teacher, and every other support that comes along with that.'”
Wanting to help other families in a similar situation, Warner partnered with Dr. Amanda Kelly, a behavior analyst, to help get the word out to families about useful resources.
“I think, especially with the COVID-19 crisis, it’s really bringing to light some of the unique challenges for our families and children with autism,” Dr. Kelly said. “Children who have autism — they have difficulty. Many of them understand what’s going on. I think again that’s common with children in general, but then you add that layer of potential communication barriers, routine is really important for individuals with autism, and we all know we have to make a new routine right now. There’s lots of resources online.”
Dr. Kelly has included a lengthy list of resources on her website, such as links offering virtual field trips and tours, google docs full of different activities and experiments, Facebook pages to follow, and even a daily schedule chart that you can fill out to add more structure to the day for your child. You can also find more resources here.
We are all in the midst of a stressful and unprecedented time in our lives, and being connected to other people who are in the same boat teaching a special needs child at home can be so useful.
“Our main goal is to start to advocate, help families understand and be able to know how to advocate for themselves, and we’re talking directly about the coronavirus and special education,” Warner said.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.