Building an At-Home Schedule for Students with Special Needs and Their Families
As childcare professionals and parents, we’ve all experienced the “summer slide,” or the break from school routines and orderliness over the course of summer vacation. Even in the past two weeks, we may have observed children struggling to adjust when daylight savings pushed us forward an hour. Whenever a child’s routine shifts, they may need extra help adapting their behavior to new guidelines.
Although building a fresh home routine may seem like a daunting task for parents and families, there are many flexible options to consider in your strategy. But which schedules will best suit your special-needs child? To help you get started, we’re taking a look at a handful of sample schedules and breaking down their most successful components.
Wherever possible, outdoor time or walks are a great way for kids to activate their senses and release excess energy. Think about scheduling outdoor time for your child at times where their bodies and minds need to recharge, i.e. early morning, after lunch, or before dinner. Feel free to schedule as many outdoor breaks as necessary, but beware of state guidelines and maintain social distance. If you have an isolated yard, put it to use! If not, walks and nature hikes are also a good option. Outdoor (and indoor) interactions should minimize contact or only include siblings. Parents should also avoid outdoor common areas, such as playgrounds or picnic benches at the park.
Art projects and creative activities (i.e. acting, singing, playing instruments, filming a movie) are just as important to a child’s development as academics. Devote specific hours of the day to the arts, and make projects as structured or as loose as your child prefers. Art activities can include everything from coloring books to dioramas. Ask your child: what kind of art do they want to see in the world? Then use creative time to turn their dreams into reality!
Family time should be fun! Play board games, tell jokes, or do a puzzle. This is where your child may want to ask questions or discuss their emotions. Start meaningful conversations and validate your child’s feelings. Make sure your child feels comfortable vocalizing their internal dialogue. Family time is an important part of your child’s daily routine because it exercises interpersonal skills and gives them time to communicate their day-to-day needs.
Cleanup time is more important than ever. By including children in your sanitation routine, kids can learn about their personal stake in preventing contagious disease. Older children can “earn their keep” with rewards, such as dollar bills, treats, games, or other fun experiences (rather than possessions). Chores can involve fun activities such as cooking or baking: for example, children can help come up with menu items and help prepare a meal or dessert on one particular night each week.
Set aside time to check in with friends and family via video chat. Not only will this maintain your child’s relationships from a safe distance, but it will give you an opportunity to regularly communicate with elderly family members. Watch funny videos together through screen-sharing apps. Tell friends and family all about your day and your plans for tomorrow. Maybe even work on collaborative projects with other families… do an art project with the same instructions and share your results!
Start long-term projects around the house: organize drawers and other storage areas. Rearrange furniture in different rooms and redecorate with homemade crafts. Keep an inventory of important items. By keeping your surroundings clean and organized, you can easily tackle the needs of multiple family members throughout the day in a confined space.
Yoga is an excellent indoor physical activity for your child. Not only does yoga develop muscle strength and flexibility, but it connects the five senses to breath control. Your child can learn breathing exercises that alleviate stress and refocus the mind…skills that they can later implement at school or throughout their adult career. Search for family yoga videos on YouTube and follow along. Many YouTube channels offer yoga courses that span multiple days of practice, allowing you and your family to set long-term workout schedules and goals.
Singing and playing instruments are a great way for your children to channel pent-up energy into creative endeavors. If your child practices an instrument at school, set aside time for them to continue their studies. Now is also a great time for you and your child to learn something new: follow online music classes together! Just like they would in school, create special occasions for your child to show off their skills, i.e. a video-chat concert for family and friends.
Even on the most hectic of days, there will be occasions where you or your partner may need to step away and take time for yourselves. Predetermined quiet times are essential to you and your family’s stay-at-home schedule. In many cases, quiet time may need to extend longer than any other daily activity. Use this time to work from home while your children do schoolwork, read, or watch educational TV.