By: Molly Denny Ph. D.
We feel cooped up, it’s true. This virus may have us all hanging upside down from the couch like little kids who are forced to sit still. When routines are changed, or when things seem a little off–center, we can all feel the effects of it; but for kids and adults with special needs times such as this are extra challenging. Persons with special needs often thrive on routines at school, routines at home and routines at work but when all of those routines suddenly come to a halt it’s hard to explain and even harder to understand. Here at Daymark Living we have figured out how to ease our residents’ minds by tightening up on the schedule and adding some fun dimensions while we spend extra hours together without visitors or outside influences.
We like to view our Daymark residents as whole individuals as we look through the lens of development. We want to touch all areas of their lives such as emotional, spiritual, physical, psychological, vocational and social with choice-making and inclusion as our focus. We want to guide them to touch on each aspect of wellness every single day. Creating a schedule with a mixture of structure and down time are key. If you have an adult with special needs at home who is used to being out in the larger community here are some ideas to keep them going throughout the day during this time of social distancing. Start the day at the same time each day, get up, get dressed, do chores and have breakfast. Then start with 2 hours of structured activities, you can focus on gross motor skills first by getting out of the house for a walk. At Daymark we have walking club each morning at 9:00 am where our residents can walk and talk for a mile around our campus. If the weather doesn’t allow for a walk, then get on YouTube and do an online yoga class or simple workout routine in your living room. Next, work on fine motor skills with a typing lesson, puzzle or art project. At Daymark we work on computer skills in our Career Development class or writing letters in our pen pal class to people in other communities.
Include your loved one in preparing lunch—so many math skills can be used in the kitchen and they love to be part of the process. Daily living skills are always a part of our cooking classes, even loading the dishwasher and cleaning up allow them to work on those skills while having fun. You can use your lunch time to talk about emotional and spiritual things; ask them what they know about the virus, allow them to ask questions and answer them honestly. Individuals with special needs are very attuned to the emotions of others so although they may not fully understand what is happening in our world, they certainly sense that something is different and is causing stress to those around them.
In the afternoon schedule some down time to read, rest or even jump in the car and drive through a local restaurant for a special treat. Just last week we asked an ice cream sandwich truck named Pokey O’s to pay us a little visit to Daymark and we all practiced social distancing by letting one staff member do the money exchange. You can make a special dinner or let them pick the menu and make it a special occasion night where everyone wears a certain color to dinner or play old music in the background. In the evening plan a movie night and watch old movies they used to enjoy as kids. This is a time of uncertainty, but we can use this time to remind those with special needs that this situation is temporary and that there is a green light coming after the red light.
If you are intrested in learning more about Daymark Living please give us a call at 972-646-2162.