Monday, March 16, 2020

Special needs moms, we've got this

I cried when I read that the playgrounds in our town would be closing. I knew it would happen; the rules of our new "social distancing" existence dictate that kids shouldn't be playing together. Still, it was the culmination of a week when life as we knew it fell out from beneath us. My office closed. Sabrina's school closed, then Max's. Local businesses locked up, the library shut down, Broadway went dark. Supermarket shelves were wiped clean. Costco had lines down the block, and it seemed like you were as likely to come to harm from a toilet paper stampede as from the coronavirus.

Max and Sabrina will both be learning virtually. Max's school is using Zoom (classes started this morning) and Sabrina's, Google Meet. (Here's a good article on the rights of your child with disabilities during the coronavirus outbreak.) We may be trying virtual speech therapy and possibly music therapy, though I'm unsure about that. As one speech therapist I know said, "It's totally doable for more situations than you'd think but definitely involves more forethought on both the therapist and family's part." Max only gets physical therapy at school these days so he'll be missing out on that, and we're actually in between OTs right now.

Am I anxious, worried, scared? Of course. Besides the baseline concern of staying healthy and keeping our household running, there are so many unknowns and unique concerns for our children with disabilities. How will they deal with the disruption of routines? How will they learn without a teacher in front of them and their aides? How will they do therapy? How will they handle being apart from peers for so long? How will they continue to thrive and grow? How oh how will we occupy their time?

And yet, when I reach beyond the anxiety, I find something else: the knowledge and security that I have been through the vast unknown before and figured things out. We all have, as parents of kids with disabilities.

At first, when our children were born or first diagnosed...

We grieved.

We despaired.

We worried about the great unknown.

We had no clue how to help a child with disabilities.

We didn't know how to find good doctors, how to speak the lingo, how to deal with the insurance company.

We had to learn it all, except how to love, because we always loved our children like any others.

And now? Look at us. We know what our children need, and how to get them the resources they deserve. We've put great teams in place to support them—doctors, therapists, specialists. We know how to advocate for them. We know how to make things work, even if the insurance company makes things more difficult than they need to be.


We may feel powerless in the threat of the coronavirus, but we will do everything within our powers to keep our families healthy. (If you haven't read much about social distancing, here are two good articles on it: The Dos and Dont's of Social Distancing and Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day.)

We know by know, thanks to the connections we've forged through social media, blogs and our local posses, that we have each other. And we will share resources, support, strength, laughs and more laughs. And we will all be right here in cyberspace because, er, where else can we go?! We can set up Facebook time hangouts for our kids. We can try teletherapy sessions if possible and see how those go, or get the therapists to give us specific to-dos to try at home. We can set up new routines, and find new ways to engage our kids. I've been tapping my local mom's group for ideas and info on cool livestreams like 12 famous museums that offer virtual tours and the Metropolitan Museum of Opera's Nightly Met Streams, starting today until the Met reopens.

And for sure we have other kids to juggle and for sure there will be fights and tears and lots more anxiety and we will go stir crazy. Maybe you already ARE going stir crazy or your child is but keep in mind things are just kicking into gear. Your child will settle into a new routine. Your family will, too.


Max had seemed a little dubious about virtual learning—he likes his routines. I was so grateful to his school for getting a plan in place so fast. We set Max up in our dining room, Dave got Max connected to Zoom and suddenly, there was his teacher and classmates right there on his iPad. Max giggled. Ben popped his head into the camera and announced "I don't have school, either!" before we ushered him out.

Sunlight streamed in through the window. I watched Max respond to his teacher's questions, and I felt hopeful.

For more inspo:

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