How Pandemic Restrictions are Affecting Children With Special Needs and Their Families

Although the pandemic has disrupted the world, social and educational restrictions have affected children with developmental disabilities more intensely than most people. Special needs children often do better with structured daily routines, specific types of social interaction, and rigid sleep and eating schedules. When life abruptly changes and families are confined together, parents may deal with outbursts, withdrawal, or other anti-social behavior from their special needs children.

Closed Schools Create Additional Challenges

Public schools with specially designed programs can help kids with special needs by providing special classroom settings for some subjects while also integrating the kids into other classes with age-appropriate peers. Some school districts assign a special education aide to each child to help them navigate their class schedule and assist during periods of anxiety or behavioral disruptions.

Most schools have been closed since March so many students are trying to learn virtually, as their parents struggle to work from home or find alternative care providers if they cannot be home. Families of special needs children count on the school system to keep their children on a regular schedule and address their unique needs throughout the school day.

Staying home, missing their classmates, modifying regular routines, and extended time with family members can be extremely difficult for children with special needs. Some children acclimated to virtual learning, but many families still experience challenges including aggression, withdrawal, and emotional outbursts which are all signs that the child is emotionally out of sync.

Social distancing is taking a toll on special needs children and their parents. Sleep cycles are erratic, summer school programs and camps that normally help these children maintain their progress between school years have been canceled, and more parents are requesting medication to help manage their children, even some parents who have been hesitant to medicate their children in the past.

What Can Parents Do?

Special needs children generally function better with a set schedule for sleep, meals, activities, therapy, learning, and socializing. Parents should provide as much consistency and structure for daily life as possible. One easy idea is to use a whiteboard at home to outline your child’s daily schedule and review it with them every morning.

Also, check with your school system to see if it offers any virtual or socially distanced programs to assist your child’s progress and maintain a connection with teachers and aides who will interact with your child once a normal school schedule returns. Before school resumes, parents must be strong advocates for their child’s education and request meetings with the principal or special education team. Explain what worked well for your child at home and what did not. Be an active part of the education plan by sharing your experiences and goals.

You Are Not Alone

We understand that these difficult times are more intense for families with special needs children. Depending on your unique circumstances, your child may be eligible for certain benefits to help you all get through the pandemic and the challenges that lay ahead.

Rubin Law is the only law firm in Illinois exclusively limited to providing compassionate special needs legal and future planning to guide our fellow Illinois families of children and adults with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, or mental illness down the road to peace of mind. For more information, email us at or call 866-TO-RUBIN.