Special educational needs is a broad term used to describe any disability that creates a barrier to a child’s learning; this can range from physical impairments such as cystic fibrosis or limited mobility, to ‘hidden’ disabilities such as autism and ADHD. This piece will be useful to most parents of children with special educational needs, but especially those with ADHD and autism. We are offering tips to parents of special needs children covering what to do when you are stuck indoors.
The key consideration when engaging children with additional needs, is to ensure their comfort and well-being, before, during and after any learning or play activity. Their needs must be central to avoid inadvertently causing them physical pain or emotional distress.
All children have great capacity for play; many will derive pleasure and intellectual stimulation from any increased engagement from their parent. Functional education supports children’s learning in a more organic way, leaving rigid structure of classrooms and textbooks behind! It’s about teaching and learning in a spontaneous way, using the environment as the key stimulus for learning. Autistic and ADHD kids thrive in low stress environments that are less constraining than the classroom.
Imaginative play such as dress up or going camping in your living room are great fun – even for grown up children. As well as the excitement of doing something out of the ordinary, it makes home feel more secure, a place of fun and laughter, which is vital when the world outside seems scary and overwhelming.
Autistic and ADHD kids can be highly sensitive to atmosphere and mood. A whole afternoon spent listening to their favourite song or watching a much-loved DVD, will be bliss to them. Your willingness to step into their world will help them feel accepted and happy, counterbalancing any isolation they experience at school.
Using more visuals and less language, will encourage your child to use more of their other senses. Schools often use visual timetables to support children with additional needs, they explain what’s happening and when, in pictures. Create your own visual timetables with your kids, drawing pictures of what you are doing each day will create a reassuring ‘scaffold’ for their day. Using more visuals and less words may feel uncomfortable to you, but the bond you will establish will be worth it. Doing any child-led activity will boost their confidence and self-esteem, especially if they are anxious or shy. Encouraging your child to ‘teach’ you, is a neat role reversal, which provides you with tonnes of insight about how your child learns. You will learn more about their inner world in the process. For primary autistic kids, experimenting with fabrics, paints, glitter, instruments with soft, swooshing sounds (like maracas) may unlock the key to powerful calming techniques which can be used at times of stress.
Families with special educational needs kids are used to adversity and rising above significant challenges. Many parents of kids with additional needs will find aspects of the pandemic exhausting and stressful, but when it’s over we will see how much we have learned from our kids and gained a deeper insight of our unique children’s talents and abilities.
This post was written by Suzy Rowland, who is the author of S.E.N.D in the Clowns, a family guide for those whose kids have autism or ADHD.
This is a critical journal of Suzy’s journey with her own child, and how she has worked to insure that her child gets the education they need within a system that can make it hard for those that are different to be educated effectively. It provides tips and advice as well as personal experiences for any family going through what hers did. Take a look if you need advice, or if you want to understand more how important advocates are within a family’s journey through autism and ADHD.
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