For those of us with school-age children, ‘safer at home’ began the second that Miami Dade County Schools send children and teachers home. Since then we have been, if we are blessed to be able to, working from home while overseeing our children’s virtual lessons. It has been a difficult transition for teachers, students and parents as we all navigate various platforms, expectations and schedules while staying safe, healthy and sane.
But for children, adults and the elderly with disabilities who cling to structure and routine to make an already complicated world bearable this crisis has been devasting. For those in the autism spectrum who have difficulty dealing with transitions, change, social interactions and understanding abstract concepts like time, invisible enemies and wars, the social narrative has caused fear, anxiety, confusion and more obsessive behavior.
Thankfully, early on UM/NSU CARD posted and emailed http://www.umcard.org/home/ a social narrative in Spanish and English for the neurodivergent http://www.umcard.org/files/3915/8422/3594/COVID-19_Social_Narrative.pdf and followed up with other resources that included a social distancing poster which we posted on our door and review every time we leave our home undoing years of behavioral therapy. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Social-Distancing-Poster-5322513. See also the Children’s Trust Website https://www.thechildrenstrust.org/content/making-most-new-normal-home-kids
Plagued by questions every ten minutes or so as to when the pandemic would be over, why people get sick and why parks are closed, last week during our spring break, I took Bela and Sebastian for long walks, practiced social distancing and spent the evenings searching through online resources that could help us navigate their ever-increasing anxiety.
Since the lesson plans and social stories available for COVID19 is very state/case-specific or overly broad, I had to alter what I found and tailor it to Miami Dade/Florida so that my hyper literal teens would not be confused. Every day this week I will be posting the COVID19 curriculum I created for them as well as pictures and videos of Bela and Sebas working on the same. This will be in addition to the schoolwork that they will have this week so don’t be surprised if they complain about all the work mom is making them do while ‘safer at home.’
But as we embark on week three of ‘safer at home’ it is a necessary addition to their workload since understanding what is going on and why it is happening will allow them to focus on schoolwork that currently appears to have no connection to reality.
Finally, I ask our elected officials and social/political institutions to consider the impact that their decisions, policies, messaging and text alerts have on children, adults, and the elderly with disabilities, their caregivers and service providers. Before this crisis those of us who advocate for this segment of the population focused on inclusion and services; during this crisis we continue to do the same and add that now more than ever our children, adults and elderly with disabilities need resources specifically tailored to their needs.
So please remember that the ‘we’ in ‘we’re all in this together’ includes people with neurological and/or physical disabilities. Consider that they are watching, listening and trying to cope like everyone else, and that while mostly silent and ‘safer at home’ this crisis and your messaging is impacting them. So please as you roll out resources, post on social media and text their phones consider their sensibilities and needs. Specifically, let us know in advance so that we can opt out since your alerts could cause anxiety and confusion for those of us who are already ‘safer at home.’
For curriculum ideas, resource links and tips please follow me on FB @raquelregalado
Raquel Regalado is an attorney and former Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board Member.