Balancing the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 & the fight for special needs inclusivity

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented its fair share of challenges for families across the U.S. From remote work and online school to closed daycares and learning programs, caregivers and guardians have been overwhelmed by the global epidemic in numerous ways. But for caregivers of children with special needs, especially mothers, even more distress abounds.

While rewarding and gratifying, the daily responsibilities of caregiving for a child with special needs remains. Isolated, anxious, grieving, and uncertain are just a few words I’ve heard mothers and guardians use to describe their experience right now.  If this sounds like you, know that you are not alone. I see you.

In my journey, I have found the past year to be one of the most challenging. My daily life has changed, and to stay COVID-19 safe—for both me and my son—it does not come without struggle. I have often felt isolated. I have felt challenged by performing constant risk assessments of otherwise routine and daily tasks. Plus, I have been adamant about ensuring that my son receives the learning and developmental tools needed to keep growing and achieving.

In addition to the new stressors brought on by the pandemic, many of us continue fighting for inclusion policies and practices in our community and beyond. We know that inclusivity of those with special needs and developmental delays is far from all-encompassing and just. Discrimination continues and the need for abundant services and equitable policy remains.

Below, I’ve put together a few suggestions on how to nurture yourself through self-care and maintain your wellness, while also continuing to fight for justice.

  • Stay connected with other special needs parents and caregivers

It can be daunting to ruminate on all the work that still needs to be done for equitable inclusion.  Connecting with parents that are going through similar challenges can be therapeutic, I know for me it has been.

  • Tune in to emotional health

Your emotional health is important. As healthychildren.org says, “Families, parents, and caregivers who take care of children with special health care needs are strong and resilient. But it’s hard not to feel stressed or anxious in this unprecedented time.” Remember to take some alone time and check-in with yourself about what you need. We are so often busy with caring for our children that we neglect to ask ourselves what we need and want. Meditation, gratitude practices, and mindfulness may help relieve stressors and daily burdens.

  • Make wellness a family goal

Discussing emotional, physical, and mental health with the whole family can have great outcomes. Every family is responding differently to the pandemic, so do what works for you. There is no right or wrong way to implement creative wellness goals—just as there is no right or wrong way to be feeling right now.

  • Make time for self-care

As caregivers for children with special needs, we know the meaning of resilience. Good Therapy lists three ways that parents of children with special needs can tune into their self-care, including getting support, rest and relaxation, finding time to do the things we love, and practicing letting go.

From fighting for inclusivity to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all in this together. Know that your efforts are seen and valued. But as we press onwards, I know we will prevail and overcome.

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