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Supporting children and young people with additional needs

Children and young people with additional needs can feel a loss of control in times of uncertainty such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Further information

Public Health England have produced an easy read coronavirus (COVID-19) guide to looking after your feelings and your body, this will support you for ideas.

Children and young people with learning disabilities

Children and young people with learning disabilities may struggle to understand what is happening and they may be helped by simple explanations provided by the Mencap easy read Coronavirus information.

A good way to help them could be by supporting their decisions, representing choices visually through written words, pictures, symbol systems or objects if helpful, supporting them to express their emotions and letting them know they are not alone. While listening, take their feelings seriously and don’t judge their emotions. They may feel anxious about big changes, such as the possibility of having to stay at home for a long period. Where possible, it can be helpful to explain any upcoming changes to routine and circumstances before they happen and help them to plan and come up with solutions, such as finding a hobby or doing exercises to relax and cope with anxiety.

For useful tips for talking about feelings, see Skills for Care advice. For further guidance on coronavirus (COVID19) for those with learning disabilities please see the Mencap website (includes easy read materials) and the BILD collection of resources.

Children and young people with Autism

While no two individuals with autism are the same, autistic children and young people may experience some anxiety due to the change of routine and their difficulties in understanding what is happening. Starstream has a range of resources with symbols, visuals and social stories to support autistic children and young people to understand the current situation. The National Autistic Society (NAS) and Young Minds also have a wealth of resources to support autistic children and young people and the Autism Helpline on 0808 800 4104 is also available for further advice.

Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs

Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs will also have difficulties in understanding what is happening as well as difficulties in expressing their needs and ideas.

I CAN provides specific information regarding coronavirus (COVID19) and resources for home learning. Afasic provides tips for supporting children at home written by other parents and suggests activities that you can do with your child.

Having difficulties with speech, language and communication can affect your child’s learning, especially when reading and writing. Children with SLCN will often need simplified activities which are supported with pictures, vocabulary and sentence starters. Your child will probably prefer practical and interactive activities, as these help with their understanding. Talking and reading with your child is a great way to help them learn. They can also watch educational videos and draw pictures or draw mind maps to show their understanding. Writing lists, grouping ideas or putting information into order are good activities to do. Chatter pack and Twinkl.com provides lots of links for educational activities across the age range and visuals which support children with their learning. Free downloadable software such as Clicker 8, Widget and Boardmaker are super resources to support communication and learning.

Having difficulty with speech, language and communication can cause frustration, confusion and additional worries for some children and young people and this may impact upon how they behave. Recognising that your child is feeling stressed, confused or upset can help them understand and communicate their feelings. Drawing feelings can also help children express how they are feeling without words. YoungMinds can provide information about talking to your child about how they are feeling.

Children and young people with social, emotional and mental health difficulties

Regardless of their age, this may be a difficult time for children and young people. Some may be unsure or uneasy with the current situation, while others may show signs of being unsettled later on. Everyone shows stress, worry and fear in different ways and at different times.

One way we can all maintain our sense of well-being is taking action in five key areas (Seligman, 2011):

  • Positive Emotion - doing activities which make you feel good and bring pleasure
  • Engagement - doing things that make you lose track of time because you are so absorbed in what you are doing
  • Relationships - connecting positively with people
  • Meaning - doing things that are worthwhile and meaningful, a sense that you are contributing to a greater goal beyond one’s self
  • Accomplishment - enjoying things just for fun and pleasure, rather than for gain or external success.

To support children and young people’s emotional wellbeing, Cosmic Kids (primary) and Smiling Mind (secondary) are particularly useful resources. Other online wellbeing activities include:

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