Coronavirus: the impact on children with emotional and mental health needs

The Institute of Education at University College London has helpfully provided learning resources to support home-schooling for children with social, emotional and mental health needs. A quick browse prompted me to think about what is the best thing a child or young person with additional needs can take from this situation. For children with social, emotional and mental health needs, this experience must bring up a range of questions for the parents/carers who have to teach their child why this has happened and how this affects them as well as try to get them to do some Maths & English.

It’s quite a challenge for the inclusive educator in these circumstances. Whilst progress against the curriculum is important for a child’s academic progress, what’s more important is that the children understand why this is happening and what they can do to support the situation. There’s always a learning opportunity in every situation.

I spoke to a parent of a child with quite severe ADHD earlier this week. I asked her how she was coping home-schooling her child. She replied, “The questions don’t stop, he’s more worried about everyone dying than doing the work”. I advised her that it’s more important for the child’s emotional state to be calmed before engaging in any learning activity. I’m a big fan of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (visual representation below). If you look at Maslow’s (1943) theory , feeling safe and secure is absolutely essential to human motivation for anything and I think it’s important that this is applied to the context of home schooling in the midst of a global pandemic. There is no doubt in my mind that this parent isn’t the only person in this situation right now.

A few days ago, I read a blog post from GEM Report about the impact of school closures and the prospect of this being extended to the summer holidays. Typically, the summer closure of schools is welcomed by most as a rest for children who have spent the entire year absorbing new information in a highly structured learning environment but this year might be different. I think our first priority should always be health & wellbeing but if the school closures are extended to the summer holidays, then that is a considerable length of time away from a structured learning environment.

What do you think could be done to support children in reintegrating back into school? Particularly for those with emotional and mental health needs? Does anyone have any other thoughts they’d like to contribute?

The link to the resources provided by UCL can be found here:

https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/centres/centre-inclusive-education/homeschooling-children-send/social-emotional-and-mental-health-young-people

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