Restaurants are closed. Movie theaters are closed. Museums are closed. Schools are closed.
Unless the state deems the place essential like grocery stores and the like, our new normal involves remaining at home.
As we all spend more time than usual at home, how can parents best manage their child’s time?
For the millions of families who have children with special needs, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in their daily lives. With major changes for both parents and children alike, it’s important to develop alternative measures inside the four walls of your home.
Whereas children went to school daily for several hours, parents must now occupy a space that was once outsourced to educators throughout the school day. For special needs children, this transition will be quite challenging, but it’s also difficult for parents as well.
For this reason, I want to alleviate this specific burden. In today’s post, here are two activities, which you can do to occupy your child’s time at home.
Puzzles are your friend
Whenever we discuss Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), we should recognize this important element: a child’s increased ability to focus on a task.
For children on the spectrum, prolonged concentration is not uncommon while interacting with an activity. At times in fact, children on the spectrum can experience hyper-focus.
Enough so, it becomes quite challenging to take them away from an activity. What better way to focus one’s attention than completing a puzzle set? When you have disassembled pieces scattered on the floor or table, the objective is to put them together as one cohesive image.
For children on the spectrum, reassembling this set should occur at their individual pace. This way, your children will not experience external pressures from you. In other words, they’ll have the ability to work at their own pace to complete the puzzle set.
While assorting the pieces at their own pace, children will get to envision an end-result without external pressures. Although this may not seem obvious to you, it’ll change the dynamic of completing this puzzle set for your child.
If your children instead feels this external pressure, the experience will likely impede their ability to focus. Because of this inability to focus, this will likely lead to feelings of angst. As children fall deeper and deeper into this state, this once fun activity will be akin to the scariest feeling in the world.
On the other hand, as a child completes one puzzle piece after the other, the experience will release feel-good chemicals in the brain. With each passing moment, your child will feel more compelled to complete the puzzle.
After the completion of this puzzle, it’s not uncommon for a child, on the spectrum, to take the set apart. Why though? Due to the previous positive experience, reassembling the puzzle will allow your child to complete the process all over again.
As a side note, I am not suggesting that 100% of children with ASD will love puzzles. Instead, see it as just one additional method to build a bond with your child.
Because problem-solving through puzzles will arrive in many forms, you don’t have to rely solely on jigsaw puzzles. For instance, you can try crossword puzzles, logic puzzles like Sudoku, etc.
Cooking made easy
Regardless of the individual, we all tend to have a favorite meal. So, what does your child love to eat the most?
What’s one recipe, which your child will eat again and again?
Whatever your answer, it’s time to enter the kitchen and cook together.
Within the family, one of the best ways to build a strong bond arrives through cooking. From beginning to end, go through the entire process of preparing a meal together.
If possible, make sure to choose a recipe where you’re both participating equally, or you can even opt for a recipe where your child is doing most of the work. By applying either decision, you’re less likely to choose a complex recipe. After all, the aim is to have your child participate versus standing back idly.
As you arrive at the last step of your recipe, your child is bound to learn beneficial skills such as listening and even mathematics.
Versus something complex as well as random, why is it important to opt for a simple and favorite recipe? Since the aim is to keep your child’s attention, you want to offer a reason to remain actively involved.
For this reason, it’s best to choose a dish, which your child enjoys. The more interested a child feels, this state is likely to lead to his or her active involvement in the kitchen.
Likewise, the more complex the instructions, this is likely to lead to less participation, but it’s also prone to erode your child’s attention. If you can offer recipes with images, this will benefit your child if said child leans more in the direction of visual learning.
As mentioned before, please keep this as simple as possible, and that also includes how you communicate in the kitchen. In other words, it’s not simply the recipe itself, which you should make simple.
Separate from a simplified recipe, your child should easily understand how you direct him or her in the kitchen. Remember, the aim is build a bond, and you cannot do this if your child is uninterested, doesn’t understand your directions, and isn’t having any fun.
Throughout the entire process, make hygiene a priority. During this coronavirus epidemic, cooking is not the time to show improper procedures. On the contrary, this is precisely the place to show proper hygiene.
In terms of correct hygiene, this includes habitually washing your hands when necessary, cleaning off utensils and countertops, etc.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, families will face different degrees of challenges. For families with special needs children, the changes, occurring in the outside world, will cause additional hurdles at home.
As an occupational therapist, I cannot make all of your burdens disappear, but I can do whatever is within my capabilities. Therefore, as you spend more time at home, my aim is to offer as much helpful information as possible.
At Occupational Therapy Concept, You’re Family. For a Free consultation, give me a
call at (718) 285-0884 for further evaluation and customized help for your child’s needs.