Parenting a child with a disability is incredibly difficult. Also, with the recent COVID-19 school closures, there are added challenges for parents with special needs children. For the past 20 years, I have learned to navigate different educational systems throughout the country. I often worked remotely in order to advocate for my daughter. Though I had to support her to make sure she had the best opportunities to succeed, I also gained access to a handful of educators who exceeded my expectations. They shared the same passion for learning, a relentless desire to succeed, and a much-needed standard of excellence that was needed for serving in the area of special education.
They're not perfect, they have their own lives and things to take care of, but at the end of the day, they have a desire to help our children.
One of our favorite teachers is Becky McVey, a teacher of the Deaf in Boston Public schools. What I remembered about her most is that I prayed for her. Taylor’s first year before having Mrs. McVey as a teacher was rough. I demanded that the administration bring in the best. They did even better; they brought me a modern-day Anne Sullivan. She was fresh out of an amazing program at Boston University, and eager to take on her new role.
Almost 15 years later, as I serve as the founder of an organization geared towards supporting parents of special needs children, I knew who to call on for advice.
Below are some of the responses to a recent interview I conducted with Mrs. McVey on what parents can do right now to help their children with special needs at home.
The shock and disbelief of our current circumstances have set in, and being gentler with ourselves in light of the new reality has become a priority.
Her insight was profound, and as a parent and an educator, she expressed hopeful yet simple advice: “I think parents have the opportunity to re-imagine and focus after they address the mental health of themselves and their children.”
That may include creating a rigid schedule and first identifying what is going to work from your family. Below are ten concrete suggestions for navigating this new normal.
Create an academic schedule.
Create an activity schedule.
Make sure to build in elements of choice into the schedule.
Give visual prompts.
In order to make the schedule, use hands-on and google images that really apply to their daily life.
Drawing by hand or favorite images from a magazine.
Create a little section of the table and shared supplies that you take out only during the activity time.
Create a designated area for kids to work on their academic and creative projects.
Put out one activity at a time.
Try to keep things small and organized.
The most important advice she gave was to be flexible and take one day at a time.
Over time, create your own family routine that works for your household.
I would hope to identify and help you focus on the support you need. Do you need activities? Do you need 15 minutes of FaceTime with the teacher? Be specific about the assistance you need.
This is a marathon and not a sprint.
We are all in this together. Teachers, parents, employers, administrators, neighbors, we are all in this together during this time as we navigate the coronavirus and all of its fallback. Hopefully, through this crisis, we will learn a better way to communicate between home and school to implement those things that help our children who cannot always help themselves.
Children with disabilities are human beings, and they sometimes are the last to receive support, services, and educational opportunities. This isn't a normal life; it's a good life.