As cities across the globe were locked down, schools, therapy centres and recreation facilities were also announced shut. This especially intensified the worries of parents with special children who need extra care and support.
Children who have autism, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome, find it difficult to communicate and socialise with others due to their mental, developmental or physical disabilities. That is why they exhibit an array of reactions.
Children with Down syndrome might look as if they are dizzy, while the hyperactive ones might keep jumping, yelling and running. Autism itself carries a spectrum of symptoms and the people on this spectrum require customised response.
Usually, parents and caregivers arrange special schooling, rehabilitation and therapy sessions, life coaching, home tutoring, sports etc for their children with special needs.
Under the current circumstances when such children are missing their usual educational, therapeutic and recreational activities, it might become difficult for parents to take care of them indoors.
It might be a while before we can recover from the pandemic, therefore, without dwelling in uncertainties, parents and professionals need to formulate adaptive plans for the current as well as the upcoming situation.
To ease the pain of parents, experts are bringing out tips for them with the help of the internet.
The Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, signed a declaration in March allowing for therapists in occupation, physical, and speech therapies to provide teletherapy. Teletherapy is thought to be beneficial because it includes family members, especially parents.
Aurelie Guilloneau, a psychologist who works with the teaching charity, Autisme Ambition Avenir, has advised parents to set up easily achievable teaching plans.
"Do not to set the bar too high. Stay within the realms of the achievable, focus on activities that kids enjoy and remember lots of positive reinforcement is vital as this will, in time, help bring down behavioural difficulties," she had said.
Special children may take time to adapt to new hygiene practices such as frequently washing hands and wearing a mask. For this, parents have to be extra cautious. Those who can should engage their children in indoor activities such as cooking, gardening and doing simple, daily chores.
In Bangladesh, the government, media and concerned professionals can help parents to ease their worries. Television channels can show regular therapy sessions with occupational and speech therapists which can teach parents and caregivers the techniques of easy-to-follow therapies.
Moreover, channels can telecast programs with special educators who could give tips for continuing education for special children. In fact, they can also teach via online classes.
Bangladesh Open University can also play an important role in carrying out online classes since it has the necessary infrastructure and equipment for managing them.
Physiotherapists can show mild forms of exercise such as yoga or stretching that can be taught to these children. Furthermore, nutritionists could advise parents about recipes and cooking methods for special children because sometimes, issues like gluten and sugar-free diets are huge concerns for parents.
If these programs are telecast live, parents could also ask questions over the phone and get direct suggestions. Concerned professionals could also offer online sessions on social media platforms.
Both state and privately owned channels can undertake these initiatives and play their roles in raising awareness on autism amongst citizens.
Print media could also contribute to reducing these parents' stress by publishing articles and tips on handling special children during lockdown.
Many educational institutions in the country are taking online classes, so we can assume that making similar arrangements for special schools would not be too challenging. What we need is for parents, caregivers, teachers and concerned authorities to build a network which would benefit special children.
Sayed Ahmed holds a certificate on Autism Spectrum Disorder from University of California, Davis. He is the father of a 9-year old special child.