Raising children with disabilities can be difficult. For many, this difficulty has only been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the unique challenges we have had to deal with in the past year has been a lack of ways to teach social skills in the era of social distancing. With the vaccine distribution picking up, it seems that we may be able to engage in social interaction more freely before too long. Here are some ways you can prepare your child for a return to normal.
Children with ASD and similar disabilities often dislike for their routines to be disrupted. As a parent, you should try to plan this change in routine as far in advance as you can. Gradually introduce more information about the event to help your child prepare. Consider keeping a countdown from a week or so in advance.
Still, you should be careful not to put too much pressure on your child. Remember that every child learns social skills at their own pace. Emphasize what will be fun about the event, rather than what might be stressful.
One of the best things you can do to help your child prepare for social interaction is to familiarize them with the situation. While social events are notoriously unpredictable, there are still things that you can expect. Remember that unfamiliarity tends to lead to meltdowns, so familiarizing can be the key.
If you can, familiarize your child by visiting the location of the event before it takes place. This is perfect for a birthday party at a nearby park or similar event. When this isn’t possible, consider watching videos of similar events, such as holiday parties or sporting events.
Unfamiliar faces can be a trigger, too. If you know who else will be at the event, see if you can pull up their picture and show them to your child. Remind them of their name and relationship so that there are as few surprises as possible.
Equip with Sensory Tools
Many children with disabilities also have sensory processing disorders. The abundance of unfamiliar sights, sounds, and other sensations at social events can be difficult for them to cope with. If this is the case with your child, you should try to equip them with the tools they need to remain calm.
Many parents have had success with weighted blankets, noise-canceling headphones, or sunglasses. If your child has a fixation with a particular object, then they may rely on it as a sensory tool. When you go to a social event, you should bring this tool along.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.