How to help your child learn at home...AGAIN...
Remember the first lockdown? At the time it felt phenomenally challenging, but does anyone else look back on it now with a sort of nostalgia? The enthusiasm! The banana bread! The clapping on the doorstep! The sunshine! At the time I wrote a blog post about how to support children when learning at home (you can read it here).
Fast forward to 2021 and it's lockdown 3... I think. I mean, who's counting, really? The days blur into one. My children have been wearing pyjamas since Sunday night. I only know what day of the week it is from the bin men and the Beano delivery. Our daily screen time is INSANE. Officially, the days should be getting longer, but it would need to stop raining for long enough in order for anyone to notice. It is January. Once again we are juggling working and home learning. It is HARD.
I wanted to write some updated tips for parents of children with speech, language and communication needs. But mainly, I wanted to send love, support and respect to those parents. Home schooling is tough for all of us, but especially you. You are amazing! Here is what I am hearing from the parents that I work with:
School work is too hard
If your child is being set work that you feel is inappropriate, please speak to your child's teacher or the SENCo at your school. School work is hard enough, even when it is set at an appropriate level! As parents or carers, you are the expert on your own child. In my experience, teachers have been amazingly receptive to feedback. It is a learning process for everyone, after all.
Support services are limited or unavailable
Waiting lists for speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, child and adolescent mental health services, and many more, have been hugely impacted by the lockdowns. If you feel your child is not accessing the services they are entitled to, please speak to someone. Your school SENCo should be able to help you with this. You can also raise this as an issue with your local authority. It might be useful check the local offer where you live to see how it has been affected by COVID-19. There is more information on local offers here.
My child needs their own laptop
Home learning is very screen-dependent. Access to support services such as speech and language therapy also depends on being able to access a device such as a laptop or tablet, and having a decent internet connection. Ofcom estimates that about 9% of children in the UK - between 1.1 million and 1.8 million - do not have access to a laptop, desktop or tablet at home. More than 880,000 children live in a household with only a mobile internet connection.
If you need an additional laptop, you can speak to your school who may be able to provide you with a loan of an additional device. There are other charities who can help. For example, the London Grid for Learning is organising procurement of a huge range of cheap devices (learn more and enquire here).
BT are offering free WiFi vouchers to disadvantaged family - these vouchers are requested by your child's school and you can find out more here.
My child's mental health is being affected
These are difficult times. Many people have faced major life disruptions over the last 12 months. If your child or you are experiencing mental health difficulties, please know you're not alone and that help is out there. Organisations such as the NHS, Unicef, and Place2Be have all published advice and materials to support parents and children navigate this difficult time. The NSPCC have published specific advice around supporting the mental health of children with Special Educational Needs during lockdown. You can also call them on 0808 800 5000.
My child's speech, language or communication skills have regressed
Many parents feel as though their children have taken a backwards step over the last year. If this is the case for you, some simple strategies might help you to reconnect with your child and support their communication at the same time. Try to put aside at least 5 minutes every day for special talking time. During this time, keep background noise to a minimum. Play with your child. Try not to ask questions, but comment on what they are doing instead. Let them take the lead. These are simple strategies, but they can be so powerful. There is more information and strategies on the Communication Trust website, here.
If I've missed something big, please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you! Hang on in there. You've got this.