The lockdown measures brought in to stem the spread of Coronavirus have affected us all differently. Within education, it is those students with special educational needs (SEN) that face the most complex challenges. For parents of SEN students, this is understandably a difficult time.
Firstly, some SEN students may still be allowed to attend school. If they have an Education Health and Care Plan (EHCP), or attend a specialist SEN school, the lockdown rules might be different. This won’t apply to the majority of SEN students. However, the Independent Provider of Special Education Advice has collated advice containing the latest messaging from the government regarding SEN provision. The best way to see where your child fits in is to contact your local authority.
If you are home schooling your child, it’s important to remember that every family and every student is different. Some parents are able to commit lots of time to their child’s education, others less so. It’s important not to compare yourself to others. This is certainly more difficult now, in the age of social media. Even though we know that social media presents a rosier image of our lives than might be real, it can still exert subconscious pressure. Make sure to remind yourself that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. All children will learn at different rates and to different extents during the lockdown. The most important thing is that they stay healthy, both mentally and physically.
One of the more disruptive aspects for SEN students might be sudden lack of contact with familiar teachers or assistants. If possible, maintaining regular contact with the school will help retain a sense of continuity. This could be through online tutoring sessions or a simple phone call. Check to see if the school has any resources available appropriate for your child’s specific level.
Perhaps the most important factor for life in lockdown is routine. Our tips for home schooling during lockdown are certainly applicable here. There are online resources available to help design a routine and again, contact with school could be a great help. It’s important to include your child in designing the routine of the household. Giving a choice for what activities to do at certain times is a great way to lessen the restrictive feelings of lockdown.
Further to your child’s routine is yours as a parent or carer. It can be challenging to balance working from home with the attention your child may need. First, if you haven’t already, find out if you’re eligible for flexible working or furloughing. If you have a partner, a balance of who is ‘on duty’ will help ensure not only that your child receives the correct attention, but that you can keep up with your responsibilities. Remember that lots of parents will be going through the same thing. There are many online communities where you can seek advice.
Finally, there are innumerable online resources out there to help. They range from more direct online tutoring and home schooling options to more general activities. Some of the most popular are Twinkl’s School Closure Home Learning Resource Pack and the BBC’s SEN toolkit. Include some of what your child enjoys most to break up the monotony. There are sensory learning ideas as well as fun interactive games and activities for students to stay active and learning. Some companies such as Audible are offering free services for the duration of school closures.
This pandemic is affecting everyone differently. Remember that you are not alone. Seek advice and reach out to other parents with similar challenges. Every child will have different priorities and objectives. Charities such as Scope and the NSPCC have tailored material backed by decades of professional experience. Some may benefit from one-to-one online tutoring, others less so. The most important thing is that we stay happy and healthy.