The SPED Classroom: COVID-19 Edition

As an academic, I find comfort in relying on the expertise of others. Facebook is filled with teachers, mothers, and therapists with wonderful, color-coded ideas. But, we are in crisis. I need more. I need high-level experts with a following that traverses over space and time. Right now, I’m looking to the muses:

  1. Mr. Rogers, the social-emotional muse, is famous for his tagline: look for the helpers. That’s no help for me. I live with one who is a great help to the community as a paramedic but not the most helpful co-teacher for e-learning. What is helpful is the decrease of anxiety that comes from Mr. Rogers’s habits of greeting me at the door, changing his sweater and shoes, and starting the day.
  2. Maria Montessori, the educational muse, created an entire system based on naturalistic learning.
  3. Tim Gun, the creative muse, motivates amateur designers to tap into their creativity in order to figure out how to use the unconventional materials of plant fronds and chainmail with chiffon to make a red carpet look. His tagline: make it work!

Mommy Title Mash-Up

I have written a lot about being a working mom and having a special needs child to keep it interesting. When the days all run together, and my time at home is also my time at work, I need to find ways to have more impact while doing less. Here are some ideas that help satisfy SPED goals that relate to occupational therapy (OT), speech/language therapy, and social work.

  1. Post-it Note schedules: you can get as colorful as you want. You can designate yellow for foods to eat, pink for outdoor activities, green for Daddy’s tasks, etc. The goal is for each family member to participate by writing words, phrases, or pictures of what needs to get done on a daily basis. Older kids can arrange their “sticky schedule” while grimacing through brightly colored additions parents include.
  • OT: writing/drawing, pulling off one post-it note for fine motor, rearranging post-its to cross the brain’s mid-line
  • speech: “wh-” conversations to understand what goes first? why? where does the post-it go? where should the schedule go? where should the work get done?  
  • executive functioning: organizing the day, prioritizing activities
Jacob cleaning the kitchen floor at 3!!!

2. Household chores: anything that makes my back, neck, and shoulder ache is a great new task for Jacob. At an early age, we recognized the need to keep his engine running in a productive direction. He works the products in the Swifer family like an Olympic curling champ. He also learned to put clothes in the hamper, bring it down to the washing machine and load it. Now that Jacob is older, he helps unload the dishwasher and puts his clean clothes away. Frankly, little orphan Annie had it easier. I joked I was making him earn his keep, but it turns out I have been a closet Montessori teacher. The nice thing is how all of these chores target Jacob’s IEP goals in some way or another.

  • OT: pincer grip required to empty the dishwasher or pull one sock at a time from the washer builds the hand muscles needed for writing , cross the brain’s mid-line by requiring him to reach across his body to grab the silverware, forcing kids to put things away top left to top right and then progressing down mirrors how the motor plan for their eyes for reading
  • speech: more “wh-” conversations to understand what goes first? why? plus sequencing what to do first, sweep the floor before attaching the wet wipe to mop, is needed to develop skills for reading, 
  • executive functioning: putting the silverware away categorizes the brain
  • social work: whose turn is it? how do you cope with the frustration of not being able to get your fingers and arms to do the right thing?

3. Dance! If you have read my blog before, you have come to understand that our mental health is rooted in relishing our childhoods while embarrassing our children. You have also read my growing fascination of neurobiology and how music does more “than save our mortal soul” (pause to love Don McClean’s “American Pie”). So many of our SPED kids get movement breaks in school, but we limit them to Cosmic Yoga or painstakingly slow breathing exercises. Moms, it’s time to break out the bar mitzvah videos and Electric Slide (boogie, woogie, oogie). Then, Cha-Cha Slide before you level up to the Cupid Shuffle and dare to judge your physical health to see if you can Tootsie Roll. (Reward yourself with many candies of the same name if you pull that off without pulling a muscle.)

  • OT: motor planning is key to all of these dance moves, plus they repeat giving kids a chance to practice a motor plan over and over
  • speech: a receptive speech challenge for sure, but with corresponding video or Mommy-model resources, kids are using a real life Boardmaker app. 
  • social work: modeling it is okay to look and feel silly is key for our kids who struggle with nuanced emotions like embarrassed or uncomfortable

Spark Note Summary

The COVID crisis has given us more questions than answers. My goal is to let that discomfort be okay. The beauty of everything being different and new is everything HAS to be different and new, like a “make it work”moment with Tim Gunn. E-learning is not education. Shelter in place is not an opportunity to try being a stay-at-home mom, Pinterest mom, or mom who masters the work-life balance. Shelter in place means to accept YOUR place. Continue to do the best you can, with what you have, at any given time. I’ll follow Mr. Rogers in creating the habit of sending you ways to live and learn…

Published by

Amy Slutzky

This blog is about incorporating practical mental health boosters in your everyday routine. I am a wife, mother, sister…I am a counselor, teacher, advocate…I am a sci-fi geek, a public goofball, a faux Top Chef…I can attach dozens of labels to myself; so can you. My life is both unique and common. Read these blogs to make your life a little easier and your mental health a little stronger based on the lessons I have learned.

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