Keeping a Special Needs Kid Busy During Covid-19
Monday, Day 5
By Monday, our family settled into this new life of sequestration. My husband hunkered down in his mountain of work, my son started taking walks, my daughter practiced her saxophone, and my youngest, well, she is a special needs kid so it’s more difficult to keep her occupied.
Sad Beginnings Become Better Over Time
Thirteen years ago, my youngest was starved and ignored as a newborn. Little food, no care, no comfort. I could make you cry with the story. She basically lay in a crib the first five months of her life in an attic. That attic had no electricity. She contracted pneumonia. She and her brother and sister lived in squalor until rescued by Poland’s equivalent of Child Protective Services. Thank God. Then, two well-meaning clueless Americans (me and my husband) adopted them from an orphanage for a happy-ever-after story, more or less.
This, and perhaps poor prenatal care, gave my daughter mild brain damage. Born physically healthy, she scores low on intelligence tests and was diagnosed years ago with mild cerebral palsy. But, as many special needs parents know, my child is really smart. She reads facial expressions well, overflows with empathy for others, loves to laugh and crack jokes. She does okay in school and tries incredibly hard but can’t grasp concepts. Has poor memory. And so, occupying her attention for long bouts of time is difficult.
How Do We Occupy Special Needs Kids While Sheltering at Home?
Right now, I’m grasping at straws. School assignments have been spotty. My daughter has some math homework, which we’ve done, but she’s not clear where to look for it. She gets bored, asks about what we all can do every day as a family; asks when do we get a new president. She understands we have to stay home because of the virus but wishes she were in school. It particularly got me when she asked if there would ever be a shot to cure people like we always get in September. Smart girl.
An Imperfect List of Activities
I haven’t solved occupying her but thought I’d list some of the things we’re doing. Most of these don’t involve me. And yes, that can make for sloppiness. She has spilled bottles of stuff many times before. I just let that part go. And I’m sorry, I’d love to be super mom and be super involved with her home education every single day but I have work to do. We always look over her homework. And, (and I think other special needs parents will agree) sometimes I need a break from kids! So this is what we’ve allowed her to do when I’m busy.
- Get dressed every day and fix her hair (about 30 minutes)
- Find all dirty laundry and bring basket downstairs (20 minutes)
- Make her own breakfast of cereal or toast (15-30 minutes)
- Check for homework and do what she can independently (30 minutes)
- Watch TV (1-2 hours, sorry, I’m weak)
- Read at least 3 chapters of a book (1 hour)
- Color in her adult coloring book (can be up to 2 hours)
- Clean her desk and dresser (30 minutes)
- Do Free Rice or IXL or other online educational games (1 hour)
- Paint her nails (which she loves to do and I dislike immensely, 1 hour)
- Write in her journal about this strange time (1 hour)
- Lay out a blanket outside and listen to music (1 hour)
- Make own “weird lunch,” likes peanut butter and honey (30 minutes)
Afternoon and Evening
- Practice counting backwards by 5s (30 minutes)
- Play some games on her iPad (limited to 1 hour)
- Bake with her older sister (up to 2 hours)
- Do Duolingo for Spanish (30 minutes)
- Practice handwriting / Copy paragraph from book on paper (1 hour)
- Sing karaoke on ipad (limited to 1 hour)
- Take a walk with her older sister (30 minutes)
- Take photos of her dog or cats with her iphone (1 hour)
- Pick a book off MY shelf and read some of it (30 minutes)
- Call either grandma on the phone and talk (15-30 minutes)
- Text her aunties and friends on phone (30 minutes)
- Weed with me in the yard (she actually likes this, 30 minutes)
- Help with dinner, set the table, etc. (30 minutes)
- Empty the dishwasher and try to sort silverware (15 minutes)
- Draw a picture to hang on her wall (1 hour when she’s inspired)
- Take a bubble bath (which she loves, esp with music, 1 hour)
- Sing while her dad plays piano (30 minutes)
- Fold clothes as best she can and put in proper drawers (15 minutes)
- Watch two episodes of Carpool Karaoke in bed (20 minutes)
I realize that every special needs kid is different with different capabilities. And I realize that some parents may feel these don’t apply or are too high-functioning. So let me know what ideas or activities you use to keep your special needs kid occupied in the comments below! This is a difficult time, especially for families with a special needs kid.
If you’d like more information on the Covid-19 illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control corona virus page here.
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