SEN parenting

The cocoon of lockdown

Like so many other families we’ve been home for weeks now, hiding away from COVID-19, or ‘that stinky virus’ as the boys have taken to calling it.

Social distancing is nothing new for us. As a family affected by autism, we already do a fair bit of social avoidance. It’s harder for us to get out and about due to my son’s unique behaviours, we already get groceries delivered, rely heavily on Amazon Prime and only go to autism friendly activities and support groups. In school holidays we’ve been known to stay home for weeks at a time, though never this many before.

When the schools closed I did wonder how we’d cope. My sons special school is not just where he learns. He has vital friendships with likeminded peers, he has therapeutic input from skilled teachers, a speech therapist, physio and OT, and other professionals visiting regularly to advise.

Parents everywhere are suddenly stressed and panicking as they fumble their way through home education packs. Social media is bombarding us with posts by parents feeling inadequate, overwhelmed and guilty about screen time (sound familiar?!)

And ‘special needs’ parents are quickly realising that it’s completely unrealistic to take on the SEN teaching role. We do not overnight suddenly become special needs teachers, speech therapists, psychologists, habilitation specialists etc etc. We are already carers 24/7 and that’s already enough! I for one am not trying to fill any of these extra roles. What my son needs right now is to feel safe. We are in the safest place we can be and we have each other.

For once there has been no rushing around to appointments and therapy sessions, no juggling of IEP meetings and care plans. Everything is on hold and it is a humongous relief to be able to stop battling for once, stop jumping through those hoops.

We have routine. More routine than normal – every day is the same! It’s completely impossible for me to work from home while the kids are home so we are enjoying a slower pace and creating new rituals. PE via You Tube (thank you Cosmic Kids yoga, Gonoodle and Bounce Patrol), collecting sticks in the garden and playing with them for hours, finding time for each other.

At first I felt overwhelmed by their virtual school work, endless emails with helpful attachments, links for boredom-busting activities, arts and crafts ideas and advice sheets from therapists incoming from all directions. Now that I’ve made a conscious effort to log off more and just hang out with my boys, It all feels much more doable.

We miss our family members and dear friends, so we’re checking in often so we don’t feel cut off. I’ve been through extreme anxiety about the virus and the children’s health, the ‘what ifs’ took hold over a terrifying few days nursing my little one through a sky high fever. These are strange days indeed and it is absolutely heart wrenching to think about all those losing their lives and the selfless medics and carers putting their own lives on the line. The news is deeply shocking and saddening but strangely compelling. We have never lived through anything like this, it really is history in the making and our kids will be picking up on that. They know things are different right now and that we are living in unique and very challenging times.

I hope that my boys will remember, not the fear, but the time spent together, siblings bonding, Mummy on the trampoline, baking wonky cakes and endless hilarious puppet shows where the puppeteer forgets to hide!

Stay safe everyone and savour this down time if circumstances permit. The Stoics would say that we should remain calm at this time of great adversity. But we do all need more love, patience and reassurance than ever.