CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS / DISABILITIES
Children of all abilities experience feelings. The difference is how a children may process that information and express their feelings. For instance, children with sensory integration difficulties this may include autism, ADHD, Down’s Syndrome, and intellectual disabilities just to mention a few also experience feelings including anxiety. It is imperative that parents and professionals recognize and validate their feelings, thoughts, and experiences. This is a resourceful site that list childhood challenges / disabilities along with activities to help them understand and process their feelings through mindfulness. Take look: Parent Support for Sensory Processing. Here is the link: https://sensoryprocessingdisorderparentsupport.co... Another resourceful site filled with information and activities is Sensory Toolbox created by an Occupational Therapist: https://sensoryprocessingdisorderparentsupport.co...
PRACTICING MINDFULNESS MEDIATION
Here are 7 evidence-based ways that practicing mindfulness meditation can help children:
1. It gives kids the habit of focusing on the present moment and ignoring distractions.
2. It teaches them to stay calm in the face of life’s stressful times.
3. It creates good habits for the future. When faced with life’s challenges, they know
they can find peace by taking a few moments to meditate.
4. It promotes happiness by lowering social anxiety and stress.
5. It promotes patience.
6. It can improve executive functions in their brain like cognitive control, working
memory, cognitive flexibility, and better grades.
7. It can improve attentiveness and impulse control.
CREATE TIME TO LISTEN
Let a child’s questions be your guide as to how much information to provide and be patient during the process. As you probably know, children and youth do not always talk about their feelings readily. Watch for clues that they may want to talk, such as hovering around while you do the dishes or yard work. Be attentive, your child may want to talk when it is not convenient for you, it may be a time that you are the busiest. We must prioritize our time even when we are at our busiest, realizing a crisis might be going on your child’s life and this maybe the only time your child is willing to talk about it. Some children prefer writing, playing music, or doing an art project as an outlet. Young children may need concrete activities (such as drawing, looking at picture books, or imaginative play) to help them identify and express their feelings.
KEEP EXPLANATIONS TO CHILDREN DEVELOPMENTALLY & AGE APPROPRIATE
- Early elementary school children need brief, simple information that should be balanced with reassurances that everyone is doing their part in ensuring that they will be safe. If they’re afraid about their safety in school buildings, give simple examples of school safety like reminding children about exterior doors being locked, child monitoring efforts on the playground, and emergency drills practiced during the school day. In addition, encourage them to share their concerns with their teacher and school counselor.
- Upper elementary and early middle school children may be more vocal in asking questions about whether they truly are safe and what is being done to keep them safe. They may need assistance separating reality from fantasy. Discuss efforts of school and community leaders to provide safe schools and communities.
- Upper middle school and high school students will have strong and varying opinions about the causes of violence in schools and society. They will share concrete suggestions about how to make school safer and how to prevent tragedies in society. Emphasize the role that students have in maintaining safe schools by following school safety guidelines. This includes but is not limited to explaining that the child should not provide building access to strangers, the child should report strangers on campus - communicate any personal safety concerns to teachers and/or administrators, and access support for emotional needs.
REVIEW PROCEDURES FOR SCHOOL SAFETY & AT HOME
Please include procedures and safeguards at school and at home by going through step-by-step instructions with your children. It helps to write these instructions on paper and review them often with your children. Should you need assistance creating these safeguards just Google the topic and select the suggestions that best suits your family’s needs. Help children identify at least one adult at school and in the community to whom they go if they feel threatened or at risk.
OBSERVE THE EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL STATE OF CHILDREN
A child’s change in behavior, appetite, and sleep patterns can indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort. In most children, these symptoms will ease with reassurance and time. Some children may not express their concerns verbally. Remember, it can be difficult even for a child to be able to identify their feelings. However, some children may be at risk for more intense reactions. Children who have had a past traumatic experience or personal loss, suffer from depression or other mental illness, or with special needs may be at greater risk for severe reactions than others. Seek the help of mental health professional right away if you are at all concerned.
LIMIT THE EXPOSURE OF MEDIA
Developmentally inappropriate information can cause anxiety or confusion, particularly in young children. Adults also need to be aware of the content of conversations that they have with each other in front of children, and teenagers. Limit their exposure to vengeful, violent, hateful, and/or angry comments, since these things can be easily misunderstood. Limiting television viewing can be a very positive change for you and your children, so be aware if the television is on in common areas of your home. Take responsibility for what your children are putting into their minds by modeling mindfulness activities including expressing gratitude, what kids are viewing online about certain events through social media.
Keep in mind that children of all ability levels including our children and teens with challenges/disabilities thrive in environments that reassure and promote their physical and mental wellness. Providing routines with a consistent schedule will provided them a sense of security. Make sure to monitor your child’s behavior, ask them questions, and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings. Having a feelings chart with pictures of expressions with a wide range of emotions posted on your refrigerator or another high traffic area in your home is an excellent idea. Incorporate a daily “check in” using the feelings chart as a part of your daily routine. Encourage children to keep up with their schoolwork and extracurricular activities and do not add more work if the child seems overwhelmed. Ensure children get plenty of sleep, regular healthy meals, and adequate exercise.
Thank you for reviewing this information. It is alright to express to your child that you may not have all of the answers, but you do have ways to help them ease their worries and anxiety. We hope you find this information informative. This is intended to help improve the quality of life for you, your children, family and friends.
Dr. Yvette Evans, Ed. D.,M.S. CCC/SLP-L
Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist
Member of the Board of Directors with Hope for Children Foundation