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Caring for Children with Disabilities During Social Isolation

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — April 14, 2020 — 4 min read
If your child has been diagnosed with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD) and your family is struggling with the challenges of social isolation, you are not alone. Cardinal Innovations Healthcare is considered an essential organization and is still operating 24/7. If you or a loved one is in a non-medical-emergency crisis situation or needs a referral, call 1-800-939-5911.

Practical Tips for Caregivers of Children with Disabilities

1. Take care of your own mental, physical, and emotional health.
Your mental, physical, and emotional health is important, too!
  • Show compassion for yourself
  • Check in on your emotions
  • Go for a walk or get moving indoors
  • Seek help if you’re struggling
2. Consider if your child is high-risk for COVID-19.
  • Practice social distancing and good flu season hygiene
  • Talk to your child’s doctor about how to look out for signs of COVID-19
  • If any members of the household still leave the home to work or run essential errands, try to keep your child separate from them (if possible)
  • If you can postpone or practice an at-home alternative for your child’s therapy, consider doing so
  • If your child must go to a medical facility for treatment or therapy, call your doctor ahead of time for advice on how to protect them during their visit
3. Talk to your child about COVID-19 in a way appropriate to their unique development.
The Child Mind Institute developed a great video to help parents talk with their children about COVID-19. However, use your best judgment with these tips when speaking with a child who has IDD.

4. Practice healthy habits.
Take this extra time at home to practice healthy habits like: Thyroid disorders, diabetes, and other digestive diseases are more common for those diagnosed with Down syndrome, so nutrition is especially important for them. Though it may be tempting to snack on junk food all day, try to establish regular meal times with healthy foods.

5. Establish a new routine.
For children with IDD, an irregular routine can often make everyday tasks harder. Develop a new routine with your child - this may be difficult at first, especially for children diagnosed with autism. A basic quarantine routine could start like this:
  • Wake up and brush your teeth
  • Change out of your pajamas and into clothes you would wear to school
  • Eat a healthy breakfast with lots of protein (eggs, spinach, whole wheat bread, etc.)
  • Spend a half hour doing something you like to do
  • Get started on schoolwork for your first subject
If possible, arrange their homeschooling or digital learning schedule similarly to their regular school schedule. Take it day by day, and don’t beat yourself up if it requires more time than you thought. See more virtual school tips below.

6. Get busy with hobbies and inclusive games.
If your child usually doesn’t have time for their favorite hobby, now’s their chance! Dive into that activity they’ve always wanted to do or help them figure out a new interest. If you have other children, get them involved with inclusive games that help develop skills. Hobbies and games could include:
  • Puzzles
  • Gardening
  • Building Lego cities
  • Painting or drawing
  • Bingo
  • Trivia

Virtual School for Children with IDD

According to the Exceptional Children (EC) Division of the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), all virtual learning will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Each option below may not be right for everyone.

Here’s what we know so far about North Carolina digital learning for children with disabilities:
  • Virtual instruction may be possible if the general education and special education teacher can virtually co-teach while giving opportunities for individual support.
  • If a teacher and student use a video chat for instruction according to the goals and guidelines of the Individualized Education Program (IEP), this may count as specifically-designed instruction (SDI).
  • If the virtual school day is shorter or cut off for ALL students, EC services may be shortened or changed similarly.
  • Teletherapy is a new option for some students who use services like speech-language therapy (SLT), physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), etc. If Local Educational Agency (LEA) goes virtual, there most likely will not be evaluations during school/district/state-wide closures.
However, for help and information on how remote learning will happen for your individual child, it’s best to contact your child’s teacher.

Not Sure What the Virtual School Policies Are? Submit Questions to the NCDPI EC Division

Submit any COVID-19-related questions you have to the NCDPI EC Division.

Resources for Parents of Children with Disabilities

We have another blog full of free educational resources for children during the COVID-19 outbreak. Whether you are virtual learning, homeschooling, or still figuring things out, you might find these sites helpful for keeping your child engaged. 

Other resources include:
Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Stay updated and prepared with information and resources about COVID-19.

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