A Day in the Life: A Mom’s Perspective on Parenting During a PandemicBy Tracie Howell | April 22, 2020
Hi, I’m Tracie. I’m a Senior Field Director at Autism Speaks and have a 10-year-old son on the spectrum named Britton. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, but we knew even before then he was different than other kids his age. He had many sensory issues, played very different than his peers and had a language delay. As he has aged, and alongside therapy and educational support, he has thrived. Now that you know a little about my son, I wanted to give you an inside look into what life has been since COVID-19 changed all of our lives more than a month ago. It hasn’t been easy, but hopefully our story will help you find a schedule that best suits your child’s needs as we all go through this together.
What’s it like living through a pandemic with a child with special needs? Well, truth is, it’s challenging. But hopefully my experiences can help other parents navigate these unchartered waters – even if it helps makes life just a little bit easier. In my son’s case, he truly thrives on rigidity, schedules and consistent days. Since schools are closed, therapies are canceled and leaving the house has become a thing of the past, things have certainly been thrown off balance for us. All of our lives have changed in an instant, but I’m hopeful that we can get through it together as one big community. If I can help just one family, then I feel I’ve succeeded. Obviously, all of our situations are different, but just know that what I do is adaptable to fit your situation too. Anyway, here goes nothing…
To start, I wanted to share an outline of the schedule I try to implement each day of the week to give Britton the structure he needs to succeed. This is an example of an actual schedule I used this week.
8:30am-Check Counselors Corner (Kindness Week activity of the day)
9:00am-Weekly Phonics Activity/iLit Activity
10:00am-Zoom meeting with 5th grade
10:30am-Mt. Washington Observatory Lesson (Facebook Live)
11:00am-Pick Up Lunch from Middle School (This helps to keep a sense of normalcy in his life)
12:30pm-PE Activity/Outside time
1:30pm-Weather Project Research
2:30pm-Science Mom on YouTube
Not only does a schedule like this help him feel more organized, but it helps me just as much! So, my first piece of advice would be to create a daily schedule and stick to it! The plans for each day are based on around the academic focuses the school sends over at the beginning of each week. Some are activities, others are challenges for the student to complete, and a few are social emotional learning (bonus!!!). We have Zoom meetings with various teachers, but one that keeps constant is his special needs coordinator. She has a small Zoom meeting with three other kiddos, paras and herself, which gives it more of a classroom feel. It brings a smile to my son's face and creates comfort for him because it’s the closest to normal as we have these days.
After that meeting each morning, we’re off to tackle the day. Our day looks like your Microsoft Outlook calendar might, with every hour or half hour planned out. I keep it consistent and varied to his likes and needs. To prepare him for middle school, a calendar and detailed schedule is a great tool to learn and have at your fingertips. He’s now created a habit of looking at that schedule daily and tackling each task as it pops up. Yes, brain breaks are added in too, along with outside time, formerly known as PE, art, and time for fun activities of his choosing. Academics and routines are important, but sometimes a kid just needs to be a kid.
Parenting in this climate is certainly not easy but keeping things on a schedule has helped immensely. Actually, it’s kept me sane during an insane time we are all going through together. I work from home and my husband is home working now too, so though our lives are out of sorts, we have to make sure Britton has the routine to keep him happy. Other children may need more flexibility, more freedom to play, more choices, but you can use this advice to best fit your life and your child’s needs. From one mom to another – keep the faith. I’m certain we’ll get through this together 😊