The world as we knew it has changed beyond recognition. Its tough enough for anyone to handle, let alone someone with special needs. I am writing this from a purely personal position and the thoughts are entirely my own as someone dealing with the scariest times I have ever lived through; I also am autistic.
As many know already, I have written blogs previously on being a nanny and also living with autism myself. I feel compelled to address just how massive this situation can be for someone with additional needs.
I absorb all information and listen to everything. I engross myself into this situation which may come across as normal, however to me I want to know everything. I don’t just want to understand what is going on but also why it is happening, where it started, what it is and how it can affect me. Autistic children will feel this need as well. You may not see this clearly in a child but what you may see is a child asking questions and I can only imagine that there may be some behavioural issues currently. Behavioural issues are a way to communicate with the outside world and the message is simple, help me understand what is happening.
It is important to me to have a new routine made and to stick to it as my life thrives on routine. My routine has been disrupted majorly and the only way I can maintain my mental health is to make a new one that keeps me busy.
So how can parents and nannies help a child with special needs or autism through such a unprecedented part of our lives?
Autistic children will want to know why? Tell them but don’t just tell them really map it out if you feel it necessary. I use a tool called mind view. Get a large piece of paper and start at the top with a title. Let then express their concerns and allow them to see the pictures. You could also draw a picture of a germ and give it a name, explain how this can affect us without scaring them. I understand this will not be for every child as they are all different, but I am trying to get across that for me anyway my mind works differently. I can be told as many times as someone wants to something but until I see it in a graph or an image then I never really get it. Make it fun if you feel this necessary, don’t over complicate this as it doesn’t need to be over complicated it just needs to be understood. Don’t feel that you need to protect them as they will likely already know that something very different is happening and they are people also that deserve to understand just as much as anyone else. Little minds have important questions and deserve answers.
If a child is older and feels that they want more information then there is a lot of information for them online but try to police this as there is also a lot of very scary information that will not do any good. Maybe print somethings off and read it together, make it a learning tool.
Information overload is not healthy for anyone and this is a real issue for many people with Autism/Asperger’s. Feeling the need to know everything about certain things (for this is one), can have a very negative impact on my mental health and therefore my physical health. Plan a routine for their day which incorporates a complete time out from any social media. I will include a plan of a routine that works for me and try to adapt for children. Before long the novelty will wear off and anger may set in. this is where behavioural issues may arise. You are not a teacher and it will become very hard to maintain such a strict routine for what looks to be the foreseeable.
Build a safe den that is their safe place whenever they want to escape the outside world. This is the time that what I would really need is to just immerse myself into a movie.
My routine makes sure I get up at the same time as if id be going to work or in this case school. This is important as not knowing what is happening day to day can cause unrest. Allow brief learning spells rather than large spells to learn as learning and taking in information for someone with autism is absolutely exhausting. After lunch could be surprise time. An hour of educational fun every day. This allows you to break the day up and allows both you and the child to have something to look forward to. This could be something like an experiment or making monsters with shaving foam and glitter! Whatever it is enjoy it.
We may never get this time again in our lifetimes and lets be honest, we all hope we never do but I always try to make the best in every situation and if there was ever a situation that warrants it then this is it. I as a person want to help others, I feel this is just part of me as a person but also part of autism and me. I want to solve problems and be a part of the solution. Children can be part of the solution here; posters could be made, and plans can be found to help in this crisis. Children could start a pen pals group and help each other through it. What is better that looking back and remembering that when you were a child you helped others through such an awful time, what better lesson can there be in life?
Emilie has been a nanny for 23 Years. She’s currently working as a Nanny/PA and lives in the South of the UK. Emilie lives with her dog. When Emilie is not working, she enjoys exploring local footpaths and camping. She also volunteers as a Community First Responder for the Ambulance Service in her local area which she does to give back to her community.