Melissa Grigsby has been a School leader representing young people with Special Education Needs and Disabilities for 15 years and is the CEO of new company, MySide.
To the parents with young people out of school...
You might be inclined to create a minute by minute schedule for your young people. You have high hopes of hours of learning, including online activities, science experiments, and reading. You’ll limit technology until everything is done - but here’s the thing...
Our young people are just as unsure as we are right now. Our young people not only can hear everything that is going on around them, but they feel our constant tension and anxiety. They have never experienced anything like this before because nor have we! Although the idea of being off from school for weeks sounds awesome, they are probably picturing a fun time like holidays not the reality of being trapped at home and not seeing their friends.
Over the coming weeks, you will see an increase in behaviour issues, insular as well as negative. Whether it’s anxiety, or anger, or protest that they can’t do things normally - this is fine and to be expected under these circumstances. We see this with young people with additional needs on a regular basis and so the next few months may actually open the minds of many to recognise the daily struggles of young people with SEND.
What our young people need right now is to feel comforted and loved, to be reassured and know that it’s all going to be ok, which might mean that you tear up your ideal schedule and focus on your young person in a different way. Play outside and go on walks (where safe) even if they are 14 years old and would usually prefer to spend time with their friends than their parents. Bake or paint pictures - I have bought rollers and paint as with older kids I thought they could decorate their rooms. Play board games and watch movies, do a science experiment together or plan your next adventure abroad – or even a fun road trip for when things return to normality! Snuggle under warm blankets, watch movies, have discussions or even do nothing.
Don’t worry too much about them regressing in school. Every single young person is in this boat and they will all be ok. When we are back in the classroom, we will all course correct and meet them where they are - teachers are experts at this! Don’t pick fights with your young person because they don’t want to do English, as the novelty wears off many may even choose to study more, but as a family relax into a new pattern of study/work and creative and physical activities and re-regulation of time. Moving down the corridor to the next lesson is lost right now so build a change of pace and add variation and balance into their day with a new ‘normal’ schedule!
If I can leave you with one thing, it’s this: at the end of all of this, your families’ mental health and mindset growth will be more important and will only enhance their academic skills if it is protected. How they felt during this time will stay with them long after the memory of what they did during those weeks is long gone so keep that in mind, every single day!
Being parents first and teachers of education second 😀