Families of Children with Special Healthcare Needs Push through a Pandemic Mountain

by Nanfi Lubogo
As the world abruptly shut down due to COVID-19, the reality of the biggest pandemic of our lifetime began to sink in. In the beginning, many treated the situation as a vacation- a “Coronacation,” they called it. As days seemed to get longer, boredom and endless Zoom conferences became the order of the day. Most people accepted the “new normal.” School districts implemented distance learning and the majority of families were able to adjust and deal with the inconveniences that arose from things we’d long taken for granted pre-COVID 19.
However, in some households in Connecticut and across the nation, isolation, anxiety, and uncertainty very quickly set in. Families of children and youth with special health-care needs had to figure out how to explain to their child that their school, activities, or programs were shut down. They could not see their grandparents and friends. Parents had to figure out how to teach their child as their special educators would, dealing with difficult behaviors, anxiety, and depression that were triggered by these sudden changes in their schedule. Parents were doing this while balancing the demands of work, either remotely or in person for those deemed “essential workers.”

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Tips to Prevent Bullying

It’s unfortunate that we hear about bullying so frequently in the media today. For parents who have children with special needs, it’s even more troubling when our kids are subjected to bullying; we may not be aware of these horrible actions until our child begins exhibiting the symptoms of bullying, which may include increased anxiety, anger, depression, and not eating or sleeping—just to name a few. Bullies often target people who are perceived to be different from others. The difference does not have to be obvious. While children with autism or kids who use wheelchairs may have more noticeable differences from others, children who have less distinguishable differences—such as a child who has a peanut or milk allergy—may also be bullied. Kids who have “theory of mind” challenges are particularly vulnerable to bullying. This arises because the child has difficulty understanding the bully’s intentions. Furthermore, autistic children have difficulty reading body language and picking up on social cues, which also increases their vulnerability.

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