Hannah McCormack is a SENDCo, early years teacher and a guest lecturer. She also has two children with SEN, and has shared with the team at Sennies what she has picked up in these challenging times.
What jumps out at me at the moment is around ‘What works for you’ and ‘Finding YOUR own balance’.
There are lots of social media posts about ideas and activities to do with you children at home.
Some families have set up formal classrooms with structured timetables in their home, while other parents are opting for the completely unplanned, un-schooling approach. Then within that mix you have some parents who feel ‘pressured’ to do more activities with their children to keep up with the posts they see on social media and have terrible guilt they are still sat in their Pj’s at 11am, with their children running around in theirs, with the TV on in the background. Or the front line workers who have no other choice but to send their children to school. After talking with other parents, what I pick up on is their ‘fear’ of not doing the ‘right thing’.
I think there is a preconception of feeling judged by other people ( or indeed other family members) about what they are doing or not doing.
I fell into the trap of thinking on the first day of all my children being home that I could do it all; recreate their typical school day, with lots of fun activities thrown in. But by mid-day, I soon realised in order to it all, I needed a full school staff behind me; a teaching assistant, a personal assistant, kitchen staff and cleaners to come in at the end of the day. It just wasn’t possible for me to do it all. So I sat down at the end of the first day and reflected on what would actual work for us.
For us - having three children of mixed ages, two of them with significant additional needs, we did need a structure and routine to follow, but also needed an element of flexibility. So instead of having a time based schedule to follow (for example 9-9.30am exercise, 9.30-10pm reading etc), we alternatively set up a ‘daily opportunities’ board. We have visual picture cards to represent ‘outside play’ ‘reading’ ‘’creative/sensory activity’ etc and throughout the course of each day we try to access each of the opportunities available. Two weeks into it and it is working for us.
Although it is working for us, this approach may not work for another family. I think the key message is to not feel pressured or put pressure on yourself to do the ‘right’ thing because ultimately there is no universal ‘right’ way of doing anything. It’s about what works for you and your family and finding your own balance.
Sitting your child/ren at a table teaching them their timetables while dressed in you best suit is as equally valuable as just being with your child/ren in the moment. Simply by asking your child ‘what are you doing?’ ‘How are you feeling’ while standing in your Pj’s cooking their lunch, can open up a hugely valuable conversation, which in that moment can be as equally beneficial to their learning, development and wellbeing as a structure piece of set work. Parents/carers need to be reassured that whatever they are doing with their child/ren, it is the best THEY can do and what THEY need to do at this particular time, under such uncertain circumstances.
Sennies would like to thank Hannah for her expert views. If you are a SEN parent or professional and would like to share a story or insight with our SEN community please get in touch.
Sennies are still running and able to source the SEN childcare you deserve. We are able to work with you on your specific requirements to keep your family and New Nanny safe. Please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .