- People with Disabilities
By Ryan Berman, MSW, Director of Disabilities Services at JFCS
The recent change in routine has been challenging for us all—and for many adults with developmental disabilities, the upending of a familiar daily schedule has been overwhelmingly distressing. To make matters worse, families have been suddenly left with gaps in the support they are accustomed to receiving, whether from agencies, independent living services, or caregivers.
The good news is that there are some tangible ways that families can help their adult children with disabilities to cope with the new normal. Read on:
1. Make Sure Your Child Understands the Facts
Often, a person with disabilities is able to accurately repeat back what has been told to them, but due to receptive language challenges, may struggle to fully comprehend the information. As a parent or caregiver, you want to ensure that your loved one understands what COVID-19 is, how it spreads, what its symptoms are, and what safety precautions they should take.
Knowing how your child learns (visually, auditorily, or kinesthetically) may dictate the best way to share this information with them. For those who learn best visually, review COVID-19 Information By and For People with Disabilities, an extremely clear and thorough resource from The State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD). Read the information out loud for auditory learners. Those who respond best to a kinesthetic approach can physically practice the steps to prevent COVID-19, or act out the symptoms.
Make sure your child understands you by asking questions about what you discussed. Depending on his or her expressive language, you can ask open-ended or yes/no questions.
2. Include Your Child in the New Schedule
Changes in schedule can be especially challenging for people with disabilities like autism because they provide a sense of control in a chaotic world. When creating a new schedule, involve your child and have them help you select things to do throughout the day. Some suggestions they make might include traveling to favorite stores or spending time with those outside of the home. Use their suggestions as openings for conversations that teach protocols pertaining to COVID-19, such as practicing social distancing.
Activities can be broken down into increments of time and placed in an ordered schedule, or suggestions can be written on pieces of paper and drawn randomly from a hat. Start by listing broad categories and become more specific as needed, with your child’s input. Examples include exercise (yoga, lifting weights, jumping jacks), art (drawing, painting, clay), cooking (making specific dishes), chores (laundry, vacuuming, dusting), organization (clothing, books, games), and many more. You may want to find a virtual class in one of these areas and help your child learn new skills.
3. Choose Activities Based on Your Child’s Interests
Many people with disabilities like to spend the majority of their time on electronics. While it can be a challenge to reduce their screen time, this may be a good time to get creative and use your child’s interests to suggest alternative activities. For example:
- Does your child have a passion for animals? Propose that they create a quiz or a board game for others with interesting animal facts, or a scavenger hunt to use at the zoo when it reopens. Many zoos and aquariums are streaming virtual content right now that may help.
- Does your child have a strong interest in music? Have them put their music on shuffle and let them try to guess the name of the song before the words begin. Recommend that they use their music collection to create some COVID-19 playlists and share uplifting music with friends.
- Maybe your child loves art. Now is a great time for them to reach out to others and share their gifts. Your child can create beautiful works of art, and take pictures of or scan and send them to family and friends by mail or email. Encourage them to watch virtual gallery exhibits online while talking to a friend on the phone.
You can use this time to help your child explore preferred interests and discover how those interests can be used to connect with others.
4. Set the Tone to Help Ease Anxiety
Neurodiverse and neurotypical individuals are currently experiencing heightened anxiety. Your response to the situation can very much guide your child’s response. By talking about your anxiety and similar emotions, you can create a safe space for your child to communicate their own feelings.
Likewise, you have the capability to set the tone for your home through modeling positive behaviors. Offering and practicing methods to ease anxiety can be beneficial for your family. Elaine Hall from The Miracle Project offers some suggestions to reduce anxiety, including breathing, staying informed, reaching out to others, practicing gratitude, and staying emotionally close to the ones you love.
What is Jewish Family and Children’s Services Doing to Help?
JFCS is open and ready to serve the community. Our staff, including our disability services team, are first responders during this pandemic emergency and are committed to helping families throughout this difficult time.
Online Social Opportunities for Adults with Disabilities
After cancelling our regularly scheduled Shupin Social Club events, we launched Shupin Social (e)Club. These virtual meetups bring adults with disabilities ages 21-35 together to socialize and discuss different movies and music, talk about how they are occupying their time, and play fun games. In addition to the Shupin Social (e)Club, JFCS offers case management, counseling, and ILS, and runs a residential community for adults with developmental disabilities.
For more information about Shupin (e)Club, contact Alexandra Roberts, Shupin Residence and Social Club Coordinator, at [email protected] or call (415) 449-3822.