Routines are important for any household, but for parents of children with learning, social or behavioral challenges and developmental disabilities, they are an indispensable support structure.
With many schools in the United States opening this fall on fully virtual or hybrid schedules, this time of year that has usually meant a return to routine is presenting families with inconsistent and, in many cases, unknown scheduling for the foreseeable future.
“There is a lot of anxiety about this among parents of children who have special needs, not only about the day-to-day, but also about the impact of this ongoing disruption to the regular school routine,” said Mike Civello, Senior Vice President of Employee Benefits for RethinkCare. “Parents are wondering, ‘What is my child losing in terms of academic and social progress? Will they be able to make up for that lost time?’”
As an employer-provided digital and phone-based solution that provides clinical support to parents of children with developmental delays, RethinkCare has closely watched how the needs of parents have evolved as pandemic school shutdowns have continued.
“Rethink’s solution was designed for this,” Civello said. “We are continuing to dive more deeply into offering various tips and strategies for working in and around this inconsistent school environment.”
Rethink specializes in helping both parents and managers better accommodate individuals who are neurodiverse, a category that includes those with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia or autism, but is not diagnosis-based, and can apply to anyone who approaches learning or social activities in a way that is different from much of the population.
The COVID-19 school shutdowns are particularly challenging to these individuals because:
Disruption to routine can inhibit progress and motivation, especially for individuals on the autism spectrum.
Learning from a computer presents unique challenges to individuals with ADHD and similar conditions.
Access to behavioral, occupational, speech and other therapists is inconsistent as schools and other agencies have curtailed in-person offerings.
Since schools initially went virtual in March, Rethink has turned to the program’s vast library of clinically based resources for parents, updating them for the current situation and delivering them through a user-friendly online platform.
“Parents are looking for support in so many aspects of their lives at home with their children right now,” said Kristin Bandi, Director of Family and Clinical Services for Rethink. “Having easy access to trusted, evidence-based, practical strategies can make a difference in their confidence levels and their ability to manage work and home responsibilities.”
Bandi walked Rethink participants through detailed strategies for starting school in a recent virtual learning session called Focus on Education: Tips for Easing the Transition, which was available to participating employers. Her advice included templates for helping children and parents establish study plans and schedules, strategies for motivating children at different ages, tips on communicating with teachers and for helping children build independence in their work habits.
All of these strategies linked to specific curricular material available on the Rethink platform.
This kind of support can be vital to helping families address challenges at home, and to helping keep the parents of children who struggle with remote learning in the workforce. Twelve weeks into the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau conducted a Household Pulse Survey that found nearly 31 percent of women and nearly 12 percent of men ages 25 to 44 with children had withdrawn from the workforce to some degree due to childcare concerns related to COVID-19.
Employers who connect their workers with practical solutions that can help them manage in this unpredictable time will win loyalty and see higher productivity and retention as their employees feel supported.