Dr. Radesky said, “Teachers are a huge attachment for kids, especially when teachers really get it, really click with kids.” There is so much more contextual social information when children are in the classroom, she said, and that matters even more for children who struggle with social interactions.
It was new for her son to express his feelings verbally, Ms. Eliza said, but he said, “I’m lonely, nobody wants to play with me anymore, this virus took everything from me.” To find comfort, “He would go to his room and put a lot of blankets over himself, and just kind of stare off into space.” When his mother went in to keep him company, he would ask her, when is this virus going to go away?
His mother was able to adjust the school expectations, and academically, things got better, which helped diminish the aggression and anxiety. But she still had to be there with him for everything he was doing and learning virtually, keeping him focused, offering incentives.
“Parents are utterly burned out,” Dr. Costello said. “The toll this is taking on both kids and parents cannot be underestimated.” Sleep-wake cycles are off, she said, programs and camps are canceled — including the camps that are designed to help keep kids with special needs from losing the progress they’ve made over the course of the summer.
“I’m getting more requests for medication even from parents who traditionally were reluctant to medicate their kids,” she said.
Dr. Augustyn said that some families are “finally feeling a tiny bit encouraged,” now that the school year is over. “I feel there’s a lot of strength out there, parents know what they want, and kids, they’re totally reading their parents,” Dr. Augustyn said. “The parents’ response, especially for kids with developmental disabilities, is so important.”
The general advice to parents is to build as much structure and consistency in as possible; these tend to be children who really do better with set times for sleep and for meals, for activities and therapies and learning.