October 23 2020
The impact of COVID-19 on families with a disabled child
Grace Williams raises the issues faced by UK families with disabled children during the Covid 19 pandemic. She highlights the additional pressures children and parents are facing and discusses the impact it is having on the families. She calls for greater recognition by local and central Government of their plight and the reinstatement of support services.
For all of us around the world the impact of COVID-19 has been huge. It is still very a worrying situation. But for families with a child with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) this has been even more challenging. These families have been forgotten by services and the government. It is clear that the impact on SEND families is detrimental. There are many stories on the news and on social media about these families struggling. It is also something I have experienced first-hand.
Lockdown put many families in a situation where their child with special needs was unable to attend school for months. When they were at school, they had limited days with some children only attending for a few hours a week. Their school routine was changed drastically as they did not have their usual therapies and support interventions. The staff at school were also not consistent. I understand the safety precautions needed to be taken but this impacted students who require routines to cope with their daily lives.
Sleepless nights and mood swings
At the time of lockdown in March, I was living with my parents and my brother, who has severe autism. At the end of lockdown, I went back to London to work at a special school with children with complex needs and challenging behaviour. It was clear that the lack of routines was impacting on the pupils. We were seeing more violent tendencies and frequent mood swings. Many children were also having sleepless nights due to the lack of routine, placing even more stress on their parents. Some parents reported being unable to cope.
Respite care stopped
Unfortunately, support services such as respite care were also stopped or limited. This meant that families had no help or support with their child like they usually would. Therefore, families were living with the worries of the pandemic with no support and feeling even more isolated than usual.
Currently the situation is still worrying but children are now attending school which is very important. Many families are still facing challenges, such as support services still being limited. Local restrictions on meeting people outside of the home and having people to visit is causing additional strain.
SEND Families need more help!
I understand the restrictions are required but I do not understand why no extra support has been put in place for SEND families. There must be more to help these families get back on track, they are pleading for help. They are still terrified about what will happen if once again all their support is stopped including; school, support services and being able to see family and friends.
We need recognition from local and central Government that SEND families are under this strain. We need support services to be resumed. Social workers and similar support services should be regularly checking in on parents. Respite care in particular is needed as families are struggling to cope.
This is very concerning for their child’s development and the whole family’s well-being. Once again individuals with special needs and their families have been forgotten.
Grace is currently training to be a primary school teacher in an inner London school and has recently graduated with a first-class degree in BA (Hons) Special Education. She has a range of experience working as a teaching assistant in a special school and has undertaken placements in both mainstream and special schools. She has a brother with autism who inspired her to work in the field of education and special needs. Grace is interested in raising the awareness of the impact of having a disabled sibling and aims to teach children with autism in the near future.
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