Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Routine key to balance for special-needs children

Published:Tuesday | May 11, 2021 | 12:12 AMShanna Monteith/Gleaner Writer
Acting principal of the Lyssons Centre of Excellence in St Thomas, Jacqueline Hendricks, engages 16-year-old student Sharlene Chambers during one of her visits to pupils of her school.

Parents are being encouraged to support their children with special needs by maintaining their regime as best as possible.

Routines are a grounding force for many children, and those living with special needs, especially, become very attached to a specific way of operating, which they follow precisely, even on their own.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered many changes – many of them sudden – including the introduction of remote learning, and while most students have had their routines disrupted, those most impacted are believed to be special education children.

Testifying to this was Jacqueline Hendricks, acting principal of the Lyssons Centre of Excellence in St Thomas, which caters to students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities.

“Routine helps to build their self-confidence … . Because of practice, they get the opportunity to master their crafts. It is procedural and a form of measurement for them because they associate certain activity with certain days and time. For example, when they awake in the mornings on a weekday, they know they are to go to bathroom, tidy the bed, have breakfast, take up school bags, and leave out for school.

“While on the weekend, they know they don’t do that,” Hendricks explained, adding that this way of life also assists parents to know whenever something is wrong with their child.

While admitting that maintaining these patterns can be rather challenging for the adult, she said that it is important to uphold them as any deviation could greatly upset the child.

It is for this reason that the principal travels across St Thomas to hand-deliver lessons and other treats to her students.

During one of her stops, 16-year-old student Sharlene Samuels disclosed that she missed her teachers and the activities she would normally participate in while attending face-to-face classes.

“ … Language arts teacher, maths teacher, Ms Brown, Ms Watson, Mr Buckley. … [School]work, going out [on] trips, going to Devon House, going on the helicopter,” she said, listing the things she missed most in the current remote learning set-up.

Her great grandmother Miss Ivy, with whom Sharlene lives, also spoke of the teen’s longing.

“She miss everything … . She loves to go to school, so she worried and she fret,” Miss Ivy told The Gleaner.

She said that Sharlene spends a lot of time talking about her days at the Lyssons Centre of Excellence but acknowledges that she cannot attend in-person classes at the moment because of the coronavirus.

Principal Hendricks, who revealed that with the help of the education ministry, she was able to provide tablets for her students, stressed the need to maintain routines.

“Try and make home as similar to their school days as possible. Let them dress up and put on their uniforms in the mornings. Give them a certain section in the house to sit and engage with their teachers. Give them the activities that they enjoy doing. We allow them to do these activities at home, upload the videos, and then we have a discussion about it,” she said.

“To assist, the guidance counsellor and I also talk to the students and place them in WhatsApp groups so the teachers are able to reach and interact with them as they normally would while in class,” Hendricks shared.