I’m her therapist, not her mom

When you have a child like Bridget, you are frequently told during normal times (not this crazy time we are in) to let educators be educators, let therapists be therapists.   Be the mom (or dad) that takes the tools we are giving you (Bridget) and use them. We’ve taught her how to dress, reinforce that at home.

Then March 13, 2020, COVID-19  changed everything.

Families are not longer the reinforcers. They are the Enforcers.

We cannot be parents.  We are now special ed teachers and physical/speech/occupational therapists.  We have no choice, we are trying to stop any regression or at least not have the regression be so severe that it takes years to come back from this time away from therapies and schooling.

I’m Bridget’s trigger, the main reason for non-compliance and utter meltdown. I also work full-time, so having Abby step into the role of homeschool manager has worked out for us. She wants to please Abby (thankfully) and because Abby helps more then she probably should, it makes the work easier for Bridget. I’m lucky, other families are not. Yet Abby needs to be her sister, not her teacher.

The schools and therapies are trying, they are doing hangouts. I’m not sure how it is going in other houses, but here it is hit or miss.  Bridget is not having the behaviors she was having last week, she is getting some work done but not all and I’m not sure how much she is just performing versus learning. As the school adapts to this new teaching style, changes are frequently made. It’s not their fault, they could not have planned for this type of teaching. Yet, in GenEd the changes can be made to feel exciting. There is more patience in GenEd.  In Special Ed each day there seems to be something new or a change has huge consequences to her compliance.

Bridget has started doing speech with her therapist, after the special education class meeting. Bridget is attending and seems to be enjoying this time. IEP goals are not being met yet and I am not sure how the IEP service grid is being serviced. I’m trying being patient, because we have only been doing this for a week and we are all learning how to adapt.

As we create these new routines I am also worried if we are creating another nightmare.

Bridget hasn’t worn shoes since March 13th. She hasn’t left the house since March 19th (other than brief walks outside).  She hasn’t been in a car since March 19th. She has worn pajamas (yes, she changes them) since the schools closed.

She has not gone on the school bus. She has not seen her peers. She has not been challenged with new learning.  We are doing school everyday (even weekends), so that Bridget does some type of school work everyday, therefore not giving us trouble on Monday.

Right now school is scheduled to re-open on May 4th. We are going to need a transition plan from Abby’s homeschool to 4th grade in an actual classroom. If schools do not re-open this year? September will be a disaster.

We need to plan, now, for re-entry.

We need to know how not to increase our children’s rigidity. To get Bridget to understand that she can do her work in the kitchen, not only in Abby’s room. We need to acknowledge that while the GenEd child is going to be okay, the child in special ed is going to need a lot more support going back to school than they did coming out of it.

Then we can go back to being parents and siblings.

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Please note, I would never ask a therapist, teacher, ESP or doctor/nurse work during this unprecedented pandemic.  However something is happening to families whose child has special needs and we have to talk about it.

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