Published: 29th April 2020
How this online consultation is helping specially-abled children to deal with anxiety, improve mental well-being amid the lockdown
Is your child fussy, restless amid the lockdown? Given the fact that they are stuck inside their houses, children need special care during these times. Here's what experts have to say
Amid the Coronavirus lockdown, parents are finding it hard to keep their children engaged in various indoor activities and helping them to do something productive while they are stuck at home. This time has proven to be even more difficult for children with special needs — being stuck inside the four walls of the house, without any amount of outdoor activity — might lead to anxiety, sudden mood swings, episodes of helplessness and a lot more.
To counter such nuances, a start-up in Delhi has been working with uniquely-abled children since 2016, imparting medically supervised therapies, early intervention programmes, and support. Continua Kids aims to achieve equal status for all children in society irrespective of their differences. Dr Himani Narula Khanna, Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrician and Dr Puja Grover Kapoor, Paediatric Neurologist, who are co-founders of the start-up are providing online consultation to kids and their parents to help them glide through these times of distress.
We spoke to both of them about an array of issues or problems that can arise among kids aged between a month to 18 years amid the lockdown and how well parents can handle these. Starting from a child's mental well-being to what they should do to be physically fit inside their homes, is what the conversation was all about. Here's what transpired.
Dr Himani Narula Khanna
Nearly 40 per cent of children affected with autism are facing anxiety due to the lockdown. How can parents/kids manage their anxiety?
Anxiety is a very common symptom in children on Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD) and many times anxiety can exist as comorbidity. It's important to understand here as to why anxiety occurs? Children on Autism spectrum disorders find it difficult to accept change, a transition from one activity to another can be challenging, certain sensory over sensitivities can trigger stress, a change in routine, difficulty in communicating with others due to communication delay and challenge in social interactions can trigger stress and anxiety in a child on ASD. It's important to know the antecedent for anxiety and then use an appropriate technique or build an appropriate set of skills to allay anxiety. Some simple strategies to follow are: Reduce abrupt changes, prepare your child for the change, can use visual reminders, praise when a transition is handled well. Secondly aim for a sensory comfort zone by minimising unpleasant sensory stimulations, exposing a child to a small structured group, experiential learning can reduce social anxiety. Teaching them to communicate using sign language, enhancing meaningful verbal communication or using augmentative devices to enhance communication can thus reduce stress to see the extent. Lastly, teaching them some breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, taking a walk or listening to music or using a stress ball can help them cope well with the anxiety.
What are the physical exercises recommended for children at home during the lockdown?
60 minutes of moderate physical activity is recommended for children between 5 to 12 years of age. Physical activity impacts positively on their learning skills and keeps them happier. Physical exercise is important for having a balance in physical and mental health. Here are five such activities or exercises that kids can do at home:
2) If you have a backyard, put up a basketball/frisbee/ target hitting games, jump on a trampoline, kick a ball to a target or games like badminton can be tried
3) Yoga exercises can help build balance, improve attention and help children relax
4) Online dance classes are very easily available, dancing can keep them active and happy
5) Some exercises like jumping, hopping, sideways walking, sack race with a pillow slip may also be tried
How can we maintain mental well-being during this time? Can you provide us with some tips to maintain a child's day-to-day routine efficiently?
Life Schedule: Follow a regular schedule of getting up, eating, and sleeping, as it was before the lockdown
Work distribution: Distribute the household chores into the family members and make sure they are done efficiently
Prioritise your work: All those who are having the dual responsibility of work from home along with the regular household work, make sure to prioritise your work
Talk to your friends, relatives about the good time you have spent together and the reunion plans after this situation gets over
Exercise is the key to boost immunity. Do at least 15 to 30 minutes of age and body appropriate exercise daily
Develop a hobby: This is the ideal time for all of us to develop a new hobby or restart the old one
Live the present: Don’t think about the future. Concentrate on the present and bring maximum productivity
Dr Puja Grover Kapoor
How can parents keep their wards busy and productive in quarantine?
Kids are a bundle of energy and with excessive free time and no schedule, this energy could be explosive.
There are few tips to make the maximum out this unprecedented situation.
Help them realise that lockdown is not a vacation/holiday. It is not a time for disorderly living.
Plan an activity: Spend an hour or two in doing some kind of activity like cooking, crafting, gardening, watering the plants, baking.
Use the internet effectively: There are multiple online learning apps which have made their content free during the lockdown, use them wisely.
Earn the screentime: Bargain the screentime for a small work/act/help. For eg, “If you will clean this portion of your wardrobe you will earn 20 minutes of your favourite videogame “.
Talk, Talk, Talk: Talk to your child about how to handle stress, talk to them about their daily schedule, their friends, their best moment, their best holiday.
What could happen if we stay in the lockdown for longer?
Lockdown is an unprecedented move, which we have never experienced before. The first week was full of surprises as this was something new which was happening to us. The second week led to anxiety as the surprise factor got over and we were hit with real problems. The third week decreased the anxiety as we started making our temporary arrangement to fight the situation. We are getting used to the situation. Now with the extension, there are chances that we would again turn anxious, but this time about the finances and the uncertainty about our future. And thus, children need special care to deal with such unprecedented, crisis situations.