There is no doubt that the Coronavirus has dramatically changed life the way we know it, at least for the time being. Who would have ever guessed it’s profound effects around the globe? It’s hard to imagine right now how life was “normal” for Americans less than 2 weeks ago. There was no social distancing, remote learning, or supermarkets out of chicken. Being quarantined at home is not something any of us could have ever imagined and now it is our new reality that we must cope with. In many ways, this pandemic is proving to be quite challenging physically, emotionally, and mentally for many of us. We must manage, somehow, if we are to endure all that is required, especially if our current situation goes on indefinitely. The Coronavirus WILL eventually peak, decline, and cease at some point, but in the interim, how do we rise to the occasion on a daily basis until further notice? This is obviously a monumental task, especially with schools closed and our children being at home. Everyone thrives on a routine, particularly our special children, who for some, even a slight change in the schedule can cause a major disruption and result in difficult behaviors. It’s hard enough to handle such stress for even one day, let alone indefinitely, so what to do?
Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer, “one size fits all” solution. I can’t control the spread of the Coronavirus, as much as I would love to. But I can control my actions and reactions towards it, which can make all the difference mentally, physically, and emotionally. What choice do any of us really have otherwise? Anxiety, worry, and fear are quite normal during a time like this. I believe it is very important to acknowledge those feelings, yet, not remain paralyzed by them for too long. There will be additional “carnage” from the Coronavirus long after it leaves its destruction behind. There will be new cases of physical and mental illnesses, economic ruin for many, and more uncertainty. America, like the rest of the world, will have to recover and rebuild in many ways and in many areas over a long period of time . The thoughts of all these things is enough to drive anyone over the edge if you consider them for too long. In our own homes, we have our children to think about, first and foremost. They need us more than ever at this time to be healthy and strong for them.
The odds are stacked against us with so much going on in the world at large and also being stuck at home without the daily support of school staff. By the way, I have always respected teachers, but my admiration has increased a thousand-fold since school has closed! Although I do consider myself to know Brian better than anyone else, I also recognize my limitations as “teacher”, “home therapist”, physical, occupational, and speech therapist. Jack of all trades, master of none, definitely defines my abilities to a tee in each of these roles. I am learning daily to adjust my expectations, accept my limitations, and repeat the mantra: “ progress, not perfection”. Progress can mean making sure that Brian is fed, showered, and cared for each day. Progress is also making sure that my husband and I give each other space, work together as a team, and encourage one another. Progress is a successful shopping expedition for one package of chicken, a loaf of bread, and salad fixings for dinner that night. We keep expanding upon our meaning of “progress” as we go along and deliberately look for those opportunities daily, because it’s productive, positive, and keeps our minds engaged on things that we CAN control. We will feel better when we are productive and our perspective can improve when we are purposely looking for opportunities, whether a pandemic is going on or not. Ultimate progress for all of us, of course, is to remain healthy throughout this entire ordeal.
There are other considerations as well, despite the Coronavirus, such as the laundry, house cleaning, making meals, etc. These things must continue for our survival, but strangely enough, I find some solace in doing such mundane activities, probably because they are predictable and routine right now . It seems, though, like laundry has multiplied in our home since the Coronavirus, and there is only 3 of us! Other chores must also get done, so I have come to look at all of these necessities as “opportunities “ for Brian to practice “activities of daily living”, ( ADLs), and self help skills. These things are helping us to create a routine to our day which gives us a purpose and helps the time to pass. Brian’s teacher and therapists have done a fantastic job of providing educational/ therapeutic materials and continue to do so on a daily basis. The staff is checking in with us regularly and supporting our efforts at home. Initially, I was quite overwhelmed by the huge packet of educational resources that were sent home on the last day of school and daily “virtual blackboard learning”. At first, I felt guilty not being able to accomplish most of the “assignments” with Brian. Then I reminded myself that I have personal choices that I can make that will benefit Brian the most. Brian is not an “academic” and never will be. He is a vocational/ADL learner- plain and simple. So instead of driving myself crazy, I will extrapolate what I can from the available materials and apply them to learning when I can, as best as I can. For us, contextual learning works best, so for example, if we are eating breakfast, I can have Brian get his cereal bowl, pour out cereal, set the table, put dishes in the dishwasher afterwards, etc. All of the aforementioned steps work on ADL, occupational, physical, and speech skills simultaneously. There are many more “ natural” situations like this throughout the day, so as far as I am concerned, Brian is learning to practice a variety of skills that are specific to his educational plan in his natural environment, and that is good enough for me. Each day will vary as far as what gets done and how much is learned, but I have accepted this too, a very good choice for me as far as I am concerned.
Self -care continues to be paramount for all special needs parents, especially during this time of isolation. It will take time and consideration to come up with a “Self-Care Survival Plan”, but we are all worth that kind of investment! Just as important, is making sure to execute your plan daily. Here is a list of 10 “Self-Care Essentials” that have been helpful for me:
1. Maintaining daily communication with family and friends via email, phone calls, or texts.
2. Doing some form of exercise outside or in the house for 30 minutes
3. Putting headphones on and listening to favorite music
4. Reading for pleasure- no special needs materials allowed!
5. Putting plans in place for when the pandemic ends- something to look forward to!
6. Indulging in body lotions, perfumes, fragrant hair products, and long hot showers
7. Meditation and prayer for 30 minutes- hard to be still at first, but I am starting to make progress.
8. Phone A Friend- Calling one friend a day to connect and check-in
9. Writing in my journal- whatever comes to my mind, it has been quite interesting!
10. Indulging in one favorite food or beverage treat daily- now is not the time to deprive ourselves!
There have been many “silver linings” to the Coronavirus. These include a deeper appreciation of our health, family members, or the fact that we have a roof over our heads and food on the table, even though food shopping these days can be quite challenging. We don’t take as much for granted, we know things could always be worse, and most importantly, we know that this pandemic WILL pass. We are resilient and have been through much worse. Ten years ago, I was in the midst of chemotherapy for colon cancer , my husband had been unemployed for over a year, and Brian was having challenges at school. Those were extremely difficult times and it would take several more months until Jim found full-time employment and I physically and mentally recovered. Brian’s school situation eventually improved and we slowly, but surely, rebuilt our lives. It was very hard, but we got through with God’s help, faith, our family, friends, and the positive choices that we made. Many people have gone through similar adversities and came through stronger on the other side. I have no doubt that we will be get through this pandemic too, hard as it is, with determination and support from one another.
I wish you and your family Joy, despite these trying times, Hope, when it seems in short supply, Faith, in the good that is yet to come, and Love, especially right now, and always. Until we meet again, thanks for reading!😊