Helping children with special needs adjust to a new school environment

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Mohammed, a 14-year-old with autism, sits at a play ground outside his home Wednesday April 15, 2020 in Mantes-la-Jolie, west of Paris. France’s confinement measures provide an exception for people with autism that allows them to go out in places where they are accustomed to. Coronavirus lockdown is proving an ordeal for kids with disabilities and their families who are having to care for them at home because special schools have been shut down to curb infections. (Courtesy of family via AP)

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- The beginning of a new school year with social distancing measures, required face masks, and limited movement throughout schools present a specific challenge to families this fall. Something that could be more of a challenge for parents and caregivers with special needs children.

Explaining to a child why these measures are necessary without causing fear is also challenging but much more so for children with special needs or learning disabilities especially if they have sensory issues or a difficult time breathing, says Schenectady ARC’s Maple Ridge Site Director, Kelly Dombrowski.

Before Maple Ridge opened Dombrowski said she spoke with families about what types of measures were going to be taken in order to keep individuals safe but it’s been a process making sure everyone is in compliance and that all individuals are comfortable with wearing a mask.

Dombrowski talked about the struggle of one particular individual in Maple Ridge’s program whose head was too large for conventional face masks and who was uncomfortable wearing one. She said after trying multiple styles an employee custom made some for him. She said they also used his favorite character to help reinforce mask-wearing with favorable results.

When asked what advice she would give to parents of special needs children for helping them adjust to the new rules in the fall, Dombrowski said parents should pay attention to their intuition and work with educators to find out the best solutions.

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