Coping at home

We know it's a worrying time for parents right now, and we hope you are all keeping safe and well. We're put together some tips and ideas for coping at home.

You can also read the government's guidance for parent carers on looking after their child's mental health during the outbreak.

Dealing with anxiety

It's natural to feel anxious in this unprecedented situation: we wouldn't be human if we didn't! If you are feeling really anxious, take a moment to check in with yourself: stop, take a deep breath in and exhale fully, making a sighing sound as you breath out. Repeat three times. You can also roll your shoulders and stretch your limbs out and give them a shake, to help bring yourself back into your body.

Another way to help anxiety is to bring your hand to your heart and just rest it there while you slowly breath. Give yourself some love! This wonderful practice has been shown to calm the nervous system.

Charity Snap has a great guide for parents and carers with lots of help and resources to help manage yours and your children's anxiety

You could also visit the NHS website's tips on dealing with anxiety.  

MIND have created a webpage to support your wellbeing during the outbreak - vital for us all.

Public Health England have published advice for parents and carers on looking after the mental health and wellbeing of children or young people during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The guidance includes information about how to look after your own mental health as a parent as well as helping children and young people cope with stress.

Look after yourself

We know it's not easy looking after a disabled child and finding time for yourself at the best of times, but if you can try and set some routines and boundaries around being at home you will reap the rewards.

Now might be the time to try an online exercise or yoga course! There are loads of videos online - take your pick. Here are some more top tips to help regain a sense of - well, control might be the wrong word - but you know what we mean!

  • Set an alarm, get up at your normal time, have a shower, get dressed. Keep to your morning routine as much as possible.
  • Get as much natural light and fresh air as possible.
  • Take breaks and eat your lunch. Keep well fed and hydrated. Again, if you usually go to the gym or go out for a walk at lunch, make sure you take the time to exercise, inside or outside. Have a stretch, go for a walk, keep moving.
  • Stay in (virtual) contact with your friends, family and colleagues. Embrace the video call, maybe phone people if you'd usually text, video call if you'd usually phone. We're all just a virtual contact away!
  • If you're working from home, set your boundaries as part of your routine. Work creeps into our home life easily at the best of times. Working from home makes it vital that you have a beginning and end of the work day. If you live with other people, tell them that you are going to work (and when you've finished!)
  • Try to limit your news intake, both TV and digital. Maybe check the news twice a day. Vary your watching, get the rom-coms on, stick on something that will provide some light relief. Or read a book! Do what you can to maintain perspective, keep yourself informed, but allow yourself some escapism.

Support for behaviour that challenges

We know that for some parents, having the kids at home full-time can mean different challenges arise.

If your child has a severe learning disability and is finding it difficult to adjust to life away from school, you might find it useful to look at advice from the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF). 

The CBF provides information and support to families caring for individuals with severe learning disabilities, who may display behaviour described as challenging. By severe learning disabilities, they mean very limited or no verbal communication, as well as a great difficulty in learning new skills or completing everyday tasks.

The CBF has produced special guidance for families during the Covid-19 pandemic, including a letter for families to give to emergency services who may not know how to support their loved one, and information about the role of learning disability nurses during the pandemic.

Food shopping

Our helpline is getting many calls about the difficulty of getting online food deliveries.

While shelves inside the supermarkets are now well stocked, it is proving difficult for families with disabled children, even those who are supposed to be shielding, to secure delivery slots.

If you have received a shielding letter from the government you should register for support via the government vulnerable list (England only).

Charity Scope has advice on food shopping if you are on the vulnerable list.

Online shopping delivery slots

Supermarkets such as Sainsbury's are using the government's vulnerable list to prioritise its online food deliveries. We are aware there have been issues with this system.

See the government's list of who it considers vulnerable (England only). Remember, if you are caring for someone who is vulnerable, you are also eligible for extra support.

We do understand that many conditions have been left off the list, and we are working with other charities to try to address this with the government.

We have heard anecdotally that some delivery slots of the major supermarkets are made available very early in the morning.

You could also consider trying a vegetable box delivery from your local farmer. Some of these deliver dairy and meat as well. Search online to find one near you. The Soil Association has details of organic box schemes nationwide.

Mutual aid schemes

For those struggling to get an online delivery slot and unable to get out of the house for shopping, the following websites could be helpful.

Covid Mutual Aid includes an interactive map with links to local mutual aid groups who may be able to arrange a volunteer to help with shopping. And Local Helpers looks to provide help with shopping in local areas.

WellChild have launched their Corona Virus Direct Response Scheme to help vulnerable children and their families with access to food delivery and prescription collection.

Local authorities are providing people on the extremely vulnerable list with food boxes which includes basic items. You should contact your council directly to ask about this.

Shopping for food in store

For those families who can get to a shop, there are dedicated shopping hours for disabled people, their carers and the elderly. These vary from supermarket to supermarket.

There is a very handy table on the Which? website, which details all the priority slots which families with disabled children could make use of. It is always worth checking with your local supermarket in case local stores policies vary.

Supermarkets say that if possible do not take children into stores, but if you are a single parent and have no alternative you can shop with your child.

Volunteer Shopping Cards

Many UK supermarkets now have Volunteer Shopping Cards to help people who are self-isolating. The idea is that customers can order a shopping card online and top it up with the amount they want to spend on shopping. They can then email or give the card to a family member, friend or volunteer to pay for their shopping without having to hand over money. Check with your local supermarket.

Parent carer forum help with food shopping concerns 

Some parent carer forums, including Gloucestershire Parent Carer Forum, are working on guidance to support families with supermarket shopping.

They have been told of cases of a parent and child being refused entry into a supermarket, despite the child wearing a sunflower lanyard. This is very problematic for single parent families. The forum has been working with the local authority and the Clinical Commissioning Group to produce a letter which can be shared with supermarkets to prove their child has additional needs. The letter can be requested from the Family Information Service. 

If you're having problems with supermarket shopping it may help to contact your local parent carer forum as they may have insight into what is happening in your area.  

Free school meal support - England only

The Department for Education has set up a National Voucher Scheme for families of pupils eligible for benefits-related free school meals.

The scheme provides supermarket vouchers via the Edenred online portal. Aldi recently signed up to the school meal voucher scheme, so the full list of supermarkets now participating are:

  • Morrisons.
  • Tesco.
  • Sainsbury's.
  • Asda.
  • Waitrose.
  • M&S.
  • Aldi.

Many schools have made their own arrangements, providing meals or food parcels. As a result parents whose children are entitled to free school meals are experiencing different help.

If the school arrangements aren't working for a family, parents can contact the school directly to discuss options available to them.

Activities and help for children

Stay organized! You may have more than one home school timetable - make sure everyone knows what they're doing when.

SNAP has a guide on using timetables and visual schedules with children which may be helpful. They also have information and ideas for learning at home and activity ideas linked to key stages while schools are closed.

The NSPCC has created a new webpage with information and advice for parents or carers who are worried a child or young person may be struggling with their mental health or has anxiety about coronavirus.

Young Minds has produced some guidance and top tips on talking to children about the coronavirus, including advice for young people to look after their mental health while isolating. 

There is also a cartoon workbook about Coronavirus for children under seven in lots of languages from MindHeart.

Makaton and sign language resources

Check out this Makaton video about handwashing from Mencap.

Free resources from Makaton charity about coronavirus.

For children with learning disabilities

Check out this handwashing rap for children with learning disabilities.

Easy read online has produced a reassuring, easy read leaflet about the coronavirus

Beyond books also has two free illustrated books to help children with a learning disability understand: Jack plans ahead for coronavirus, and When someone dies from coronavirus.

Other resources

 BBC Newsround has helpful information for children about the coronavirus, including explainer videos. They also have a 'happy news' section to brighten the day

Childline has a 'calm zone', with videos, activities, games, and calming activities to help children who are worried about anything

Many major museums and organisations in the UK and abroad are running virtual tours, for example the British Museum.

Calibre Audio Library
UK charity that lends audio books and streams books online for anyone who struggles to access print, including children.

Living Paintings (UK)
Free postal library supporting blind and partially sighted adults, children and young people. They make tactile versions of pictures that come to life when fingers feel them.

Dekko Comics
12 issues of Dekko Comics have been uploaded online as a free resource to help with home-learning during the Covid-19 isolation.

BBC CBeebies for special needs
Resources and help for children with additional needs from the BBC, including Mr Tumble!

CBBs sign language with Mr Tumble.

ITV Signed Stories
Signed Stories help improve the literacy of deaf children from infancy upwards. The website also provides useful advice and guidance for parents, carers and teachers of deaf children, and for the deaf parents of hearing children.

The Letterbox Library
Catalogue of disability-related books for disabled children and their siblings, and for use in school or other settings, that promote understanding and explain 'difference' for all ages from babies to eleven years old.

Twinkl has lots of wonderful resources and ideas to stimulate and entertain children of primary school age. And the Twinkl SEND resources are well worth checking out for fun stuff to do at home.

Singing Hands on YouTube has videos of songs signed in Makaton. And they will be doing live sessions on YouTube at 10.30am.

Bumble bee physio London are doing live physio for children who are wheelchair users at 10am on their Facebook page.

David Walliams is releasing a free audio story everyday for 30 days

Joe Wicks, TheBodyCoach, is running live PE session on You Tube every morning at 9am.

Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children's books alongside creative illustrations.

If your children are into animals and the natural world, National Geographic Kids on You Tube has lots of fantastic, interactive videos.

Khan Academy Kids is an educational app for children aged two to seven. Animated characters guide children through educational materials. It's an American app but lots of relevant activities.

GOSH Play Team have put together this resource about the power of play - as a form of connection/distraction during these times.

And here is an article with tips for games and activities to do with children with special educational needs, that are not screen based - many of them indoors.

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