5 Ways You can Help Special Needs Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Being a parent of a special needs child in general can be daunting and overwhelming; community is what often helps us “get through” the more difficult times of parenting and especially parenting a child(ren) with special needs.

Insert social distancing, no school, no church services, military domestic travel ban, discouragement to stay away from group activities, and a strong encouragement to stay put at home due to our kids being considered high risk. This sets parents of special needs children back a bit with not being able to interact and get support from community. Special needs parents already face feelings of isolation and loneliness; let’s not let that happen during the COVID-19 Pandemic!

1. Ask what you can grab for them at the store.
Honestly, it can be strenuous to go to the store at ANY time for special needs families. Some have to navigate the store with wheelchairs, others have to chase down their bolting child, and more deal with fits and tantrums. Furthermore, many children with special needs are considered high risk and parents want to protect them at all costs thus going to the store isn’t even an option right now. Check in with these families each time you go to the store; they might always say, ‘No, we are okay” BUT there might be one time when they really need something like a roll of toilet paper (yes, I said it) or something specific to their child’s needs!

2. Drop off pre-made kid activities.
Many of us special needs parents were not expecting our kids to be at home 24/7 for the next month. For stay at home moms/dads, school was a much-needed respite. For working parents, school was a safe place for these children and also a much-needed resource. My son receives occupational, physical, and speech therapy all at his school. His school did send home a packet for him, but, let’s be real, that ain’t gonna last all month. Creating activities for him right now is doable but arduous; my son in particular will knock all the materials down as I’m trying to prepare them or throw the scissors I’m using to cut tiny shapes out for him. This morning, I foolishly optimistically decided to paint and merely pouring out the paint onto plates was quite the task! (It did end up turning out to be fun for 2 minutes and 23 seconds…)
 Any parent would greatly appreciate a porch drop off of even just one simple new activity for their kids to do! 
If you aren’t crafty, don’t have the time to make activities, or live far away, send some activities or a new book via Amazon or even drop off a different type of care package. The simple act of opening up a box no matter what is in it is exciting for my son!
Harrison trying to “paint” Brooks

3. Provide respite.
PLEASE check with the family you know before you offer this. They may not want anyone in their home as protection for their child, but, if you are 100% healthy and in a place in your life where you are able to do so, ask if you can come watch their kids while the parent(s) take a desperate break. Or take a sibling of the child with special needs so the parent can have a break that way. I am blessed to currently have some respite care but I know others do not consistently have this. 

4. Send texts of encouragement. 
Simply sending texts asking how these special needs families are doing, sending funny memes (trust me, there are a LOT out there right now) to make them smile, finding a Scripture verse as a reminder of God’s goodness, or letting them know that you are thinking of them can turn around their day. I have already received several texts from friends genuinely asking how they can help and telling me they are thinking of us and praying. That alone made my day turn around after my son had an epic meltdown this morning!

5. Provide resources.
Share ideas for activities with no prep work do at home. Homeschool moms or teachers or super creative individuals, send online or tangible resources on what you use daily for your kids. I know there are lot of wonderful blog posts with activity ideas circulating the web right now, but some special needs families might not have the time to sift through which will actually work for their families. Send book ideas for rainy days. Send outdoor activity ideas. Send videos of you and your kids reading a book aloud. Send some bourbon or gin. Send letters for the kids to open. Send prayer. Send your love. 

Obviously, each family faces different needs. This is just a starter list with some unique ways to help!


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