What support is available for special educational needs youngsters in lockdown?
PUBLISHED: 16:30 21 May 2020
Dedicated home-schooling activities have been produced to help children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in Suffolk during the coronavirus lockdown.
SEND chiefs at Suffolk County Council said additional measures had been put in place to support SEND youngsters, while Suffolk Parent Carer Network (SPCN) which works with families has also put in place extra support.
Among those measures are extra resources for families to buy items for home learning; daily activities and ideas published on the Suffolk local offer website; and online and phone support.
MORE: When will Suffolk schools go back?
SPCN meanwhile has provided family support boxes featuring mindfulness colouring books and stress balls for those who need them; a bag with sensory items such as shells and fidget toys and information cards featuring support and advice details.
Judith Mobbs, assistant director for inclusion and skills at the county council, said: “A key point for us is to make sure we haven’t stopped or reduced any services when families may need it most.
“One aspect we have prioritised is our support for individual families. There is a lot more pressure on them with many children not going to school at the moment because of underlying health conditions.
“Everyday we are putting new activities and ideas on the local offer Facebook page which are particularly tailored to parents of children with SEND. There is a lot out there for families, in fact it is bewildering, but if you have a child with SEND a lot of that isn’t tailored to meet their needs. So we are putting out new activities every day and the reason for doing that every day is so we don’t overwhelm parents who have a myriad of suggestions about what they should or shouldn’t be doing over this time.
“Each one of those families has got a different context. We are seeing some really positive stories, but alongside that we know there are families struggling and despite what we have put in place this is really challenging and tough. The work the parents carer network have done has been really important.
“Children with special educational needs often find change much more challenging. They will have settled into a new routine during this period so helping them adapt back will be challenging.”
SPCN said it had reached more than 1,800 children in eight weeks with its support boxes and phone support, and said provision would be in place throughout the pandemic.
Anne Humphrys, co-chairwoman of SPCN, said: “We very quickly identified that the immediate need of families was information - from how to talk to your child/young person about Covid-19 and how to support children and young people with anxiety to the latest government advice and where they could find support.
“As we saw lockdown coming we knew it would be very challenging for families of children and young people with additional needs and/or disabilities if lockdown was going to be as severe as we expected.
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“We knew that it was likely that lockdown would be most difficult for our families who have children and young people with neurodevelopmental challenges such as ASD and ADHD, learning disabilities, sensory needs and mental health issues.
“We also knew that families would feel very isolated and so SPCN wanted families to know that we would walk this difficult path with them.”
Case study: Virtual iRock
In Ipswich, community interest company Out Loud Music has launched an online club for SEND youngsters.
The Virtual iRock club provides fun challenges for children in a forum where they can meet new friends and stay connected.
It features video content, online games and a segment for them to review new apps they have been using among other activities.
Director Joe Bailey said funding from Children in Need, The People’s Health Trust and Activities Unlimited would keep it going for the next three years.
He added: “It’s vitally important for young people with additional needs to have a digital space where they feel safe and a project to make their own.
“They can get involved as much as they like, whether into gaming, film or music, or even if they just want an opportunity to socialise.”
Visit the Out Loud Music website here for information and to book a place.
Visit the Suffolk County Council local offer Facebook page here for daily activities or the SPCN website here for further information and support.
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