Therapy and Care for Children with Special Needs During COVID-19

Therapy and care for children with special needs have never been easy. Now with the pandemic, parents need to know how to navigate care more than ever.

I’m not a medical professional. I’m a mom of three, one of whom has special needs. When the world locked down in March, we continued doing more of the same. Since having Rory, we become hyper-vigilant of sickness come October.

Rory was born with two small holes in her heart and, paired with the weaker immune system that sometimes can come with Down syndrome, I have always worried about flu or other winter illnesses. When COVID-19 came along, I added it to the list of things we as parents worry about. 

We also took active steps to limit our exposure.

How we navigated shutdowns and quarantine

We stopped intervention from outside sources and did our best to support Rory within the home. Some of our providers would send emails with tasks we could do to implement speech, PT and OT.

It wasn’t ideal trying to work with Rory while homeschooling her older brother and caring for a 7-month old baby. As the months started to progress and we learned more about the virus, my husband and I made the decision that Rory would go back to therapy in late June or early July. Of course, that was our plan of action. Yours might look very different.

Deciding when to return to care and therapy

Each family has a unique set of circumstances and their own comfort levels when it comes to considering re-entering the world during the pandemic. There is no right or wrong, and you have to do what’s best for you and your family.

Rory’s behavior was backsliding greatly, my oldest was becoming melancholy and we had zero routine at the end of a long four months. When I made the choice to get back out there, it was with a lot of thought and planning. If you’re wondering if it’s time for you to return to “everyday life,” here are some things I took into consideration and actions I took.

  1. Consult with your doctor. I took Rory in for a well child visit and discussed the risk level involved with certain activities. I took all of her advice to heart. One thing she suggested was taking Rory’s health history into consideration. Has she struggled with many respiratory illnesses? Is she sick often? What is her rebound time? All of this helped me decide when I felt comfortable starting up therapy again. Keeping in mind we have the ability to change our minds at anytime. 
  2. I reached out to our therapy partners. I asked what actions they were taking to ensure safety. Are they masking? Taking temperatures? Are the limiting individuals from entering the building? What is their travel policy for therapists? This helped me feel much more comfortable with certain providers, and gave me a level of expectation when we did finally decide to return. I constantly check in with management to make sure I have the most up to date information about exposure within the therapy center. 
  3. I upped our nutrition and supplement game. As always, this is unique to each family. I limit sugar intake, add vitamin C, D and magnesium. Along with glutathione, zinc and a probiotic. Lots of water and good sleep. Our diets have some much effect on how we handle sickness and rory is no exception. I do my best to stay on top of providing her a good healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables, avoiding gluten and dairy. 
  4. I had very candid conversations with our care partners. When I considered bringing support back into the home, I knew I’d have to talk to our providers to make sure all our standards for safety were met. There will always be a risk and a level of trust involved. Hand washing, contact/exposure conversations and masking are all part of our requests for individuals working with Rory.

This is a highly personal choice

There will always be a level of risk involved as we live our lives, especially as a family whose child(ren) has special needs. As a family, we felt it was important for our children to return to some normalcy with precautions in place in order to ensure the best life for all of us. Our collective emotional and physical health has been better for it. Rory’s speech is picking back up, Owen is more like himself and Wyatt is getting more one-on-one attention.  

Of course, using my daily planner was essential during isolation, and it helped me manage daily expectations and some semblance of structure. Now, I’m happy to see its pages filled with more everyday routines and our village safely return to rally around Rory. 

How have you taken steps to stay safe? Are you still self-isolating? If so, what are your biggest struggles and how are you planning to safely re-enter therapy or child care?

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