Children with special needs benefit from meaningful engagement in their home environment. Keeping them engaged through the day requires preparation, practice and patience. Online schooling has helped parents tune into their child’s typical day at school, thus empowering them to mirror these goals at home while making learning fun.
Here are some tips on how to keep children with special needs engaged at home.
- Plan ahead and create a schedule, so your child knows what to expect from his/her day. Parents can curb meltdowns and minimize behavioural challenges when expectations are set from the beginning. These schedules can be created using visual icons, pictures of the child performing a specific activity or simply by enlisting the activities, if the child is able to read. Include breaks, playtime, snack time and may be screen time in the schedule to motivate your child. Parents may also tie daily schedules to a reinforcement system or a reward program. For example, once all activities are completed, the child will earn stipulated screen time.
- Use simple board games, simple art/craft activities (these could be theme based such as festivals, environment, seasons, etc) and family games like charades to build on language skills, academic concepts and facilitate social skill building. During the pandemic, children have been missing out on meaningful interactive experiences, which they acquire by interacting with their peers. Interacting with family members in a fun and interactive manner provides them these opportunities.
- Storytelling and role play are great tools to build your child’s imagination and teach meaningful life skills. Parents may generalize skills such as negotiating, using language in social scenarios, maintaining a topic of conversation, and turn taking while engaging their child in a role-playing scenario. For example, one parent may pretend to be a shopkeeper and the child can pretend to be a customer at the grocery store. Parents may pre-teach or coach the child on what to say and how to react or what questions to ask. Select a story with characters that the child can identify with or one that interests him/her. Parents can use visual prints, puppets or simple stick figures to augment their storytelling experience.
- Owing to our current circumstance, most children are unable to venture outside and get their share of physical outdoor play. However, it is possible to plan some of these activities at home. Set up an obstacle course at home while children manoeuvre household objects like pillows, chairs, stuffed animals can help them develop large motor movements. Similarly, a simple cooking activity (for example, making lemonade, hot chocolate, sandwiches, bhel, etc) can facilitate use of their fine motor movements, while simultaneously teaching them to follow instructions.
- Involve children in daily chores. While modeling these chores for them, include appropriate language (verbal and non-verbal) and teamwork. Chores may range from setting the table for the family to drying clothes on the clothesline. Parents are encouraged to include children in their daily activities to facilitate independence and build confidence.
Also read: How does early intervention help manage learning disabilities in children
Children with special needs thrive when provided with a secure, nurturing and engaging home environment. Parents are encouraged to get creative, embrace their child’s strengths and have fun during these interactions.