Supporting Children With Disabilities Through A Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has come with many challenges for children with disabilities and their families. In order to support these children and families better, we put together some strategies and resources to help us all navigate this new terrain equipped with better understanding, support and tools.

A. We asked Radhika Alkazi, founder and managing trustee of the NGO ASTHA, to share a few strategies on how we could better support children with disabilities during these times:

  1. In all efforts for children, try to include children with disabilities. Find out if a child needs some changes in the activity or environment to be able to participate and ensure that for the child. If a child is part of a classroom, ensure that she does not drop out but is part of the full online  classroom experience. 
  2. Children with disabilities will also be part of families who have moved back to their homes from the city (migrants). The state and civil society organisation will need to ensure that they are accepted even temporarily to educational and other efforts particularly in availing of food security benefits till more long term solutions are there.
  3. Reach out to organisations in your areas that work with children with disabilities and volunteer to support a child.  Children with disabilities often get isolated without peer support. Be part of networks that can support and reach out to the child and their family and understand the different ways in which you can befriend the child.
  4. Disabled people’s organisations  and even informal groups of persons with disabilities  need to be strengthened at this time to  be able to reach out locally to families of children with disabilities and children with disabilities themselves. There are  many organisations working in different states with children with disabilities. You can reach out to an organisation or group of persons with disabilities  closest to where you live. 

B. Compelled to stay home and cut off from support systems like therapists, school and health and nutrition services, parents and caregivers are now wholly responsible for the care and well being of children. This list of resources might come in handy and covers how to help kids on the spectrum wear a mask to sharing tips with parents on what they can do to engage children.  

  1. Staying Safe: Health and well being is topmost for most people and all advisories are pointing to the importance of masks to protect and prevent the spread of Covid-19. But wearing masks isn’t always easy, especially for autistic children who are more sensitive to touch and texture. This blog by Harvard Medical School offers suggestions on how to stay safe and what you can do. You can also read this account by parent and writer Shannon Des Roches Rosa on paying attention to the experience of a child and finding workable options accordingly. 
  2. Supporting children in a pandemic- A How-to for Parents: It’s a difficult time to be a child, more so when the education system is not equipped to respond to and meet the care needs and support a child with disabilities might require. This list by Firstpost offers suggestions to parents on how to keep the well being of the child front and centre with reminders to ‘Reduce demands’, ‘Set a routine’ and ‘Get Support’.
  3. Art, Craft and Games: NewzHook-Changing Attitude Towards Disability has put together this list of videos for children with physical disabilities, craft and sensory activities, and ways to help children with autism build social and communication skills. 
  4. Remember to make time for play: Sometimes in situations of stress and anxiety, fun, laughter and games can fall by the wayside. But they’re actually more important than ever. This beautifully illustrated resource by Playground Equipment, shows just why. So go ahead, make time for play.
  5. Caring for the Caregiver: ‘Humare Jugaad’ is a beautifully illustrated story by Narrative Therapy India of how mothers are taking care of themselves and their mental health in this pandemic – a critical but often forgotten essential to be able to be grounded and from that space, to extend care to family and community. It’s a heartwarming reminder to dance, sing, tend to plants and to find release in a good weep.

For a comprehensive understanding of children with disabilities and their experiences during the pandemic, you can listen to our full podcast, ‘No Child Left Behind’ here.