This time of year, parents are generally buying up school supplies, meeting teachers, and getting kids ready for another year of school. Things are different this time around, to say the least. Parents are currently facing the tough choice of whether to send their kids back for face-to-face learning or to continue with some version of virtual learning or homeschooling.
As hard as this may be for the average parent, this range of choices could actually be considered a luxury when you talk to a parent of a child with special needs. It may not be possible for them to provide at home the opportunities and supplemental services their kids get from attending school. These children often get to work with teachers trained in special education and have access to various types of therapy.
While schools can provide critical services for children with disabilities, the difficulties of going back to school during this pandemic could unfortunately negate some of the benefits.
Why do we care so deeply about this specific struggle facing the greater community?
We’ve worked with many pediatric therapy clinics at TheraPlan and EEP over the years, so we’ve had lots of firsthand experience talking to parents of children in need of therapy.
Furthermore, one impetus for starting our joint businesses was our founder’s personal experience parenting a disabled child. We may provide services to therapy clinics, but we also have a personal understanding of what it’s like to visit them as the parent of a young patient on a regular basis.
Lastly, we know that many of you are therapists and clinic owners serving this very population. We feel it’s critical to highlight the importance of being sensitive to the huge life changes that therapy patients and their families are experiencing. It’s easy to get frustrated with all the shifts that may be affecting your business and revenue right now, but the ultimate goal of therapy services has not changed. Presumably, you aim to make the joys and milestones of everyday life more accessible to those who cannot reach them alone.
You likely know the facts about why this is hard for your patients. Yet, tough things can come up when you’re speaking with parents who are in the midst of making hard, emotional decisions about education. A deep understanding of what they’re worried about could help you connect more deeply to your patients and make your sessions a source of even greater comfort for them.
- Sensory issues could make wearing masks nearly impossible. As you are no doubt aware, children who are differently abled can have difficulty with texture and touch, for example. The feeling of having a mask on for even a short period of time could be simply unbearable for many. This is particularly so for those on the autism spectrum. If you aren’t already, suggesting solutions that other parents have used could help both the patient and parent feel less frustrated.
- These same children who feel the most uncomfortable wearing masks need the most protection. Existing physical conditions often coincide with immunosuppression. The cost of teachers and school support staff not taking precautionary measures could be much higher for disabled children. Taking a few minutes to discuss the schooling options and what they’re most concerned about can help parents feel reassured.
- Parents may want to abide by the mandates that are intended to keep us all safe, but feel they simply can’t force their child to do so. This can bring up guilt, fear of judgment, and more tough emotions. Giving parents your professional support in processing the real risks, as appropriate, could be more helpful than you know.
- Families of immunocompromised children may feel even more isolated than the rest of the world does. The huge toll that isolation and exacerbated worry takes on parents is no small thing. Just saying “I see you and I know how hard this is for you,” can go a long way in offering them comfort and further establishing your safe relationship.
If it feels difficult to fit these additional concerns into your therapy sessions, remember that sometimes all it takes is a few kind words to make a parent feel acknowledged.
In the same way that our software application is focused on making your work life easier, our greater mission is focused on the same care you have for making patients’ lives easier.
Despite the distance we must literally maintain between one another, we now have a unique opportunity to grow closer with those who need us most.