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Helping children and adults with special needs stay engaged (and have fun!) while social distancing

With social distancing measures in place to help stop the spread of COVID-19, parents and caregivers of children, adolescents and adults living with emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences may be feeling the heat this summer, trying to find fun, engaging and educationally enriching activities for their individuals to enjoy. 

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health National Director of Family Engagement Amy Kelly, MBA, MNM, who is a mother of three children, including one with autism and intellectual and developmental disabilities, shares activities to help youth and adults learn new skills, while staying safe and healthy. 

“This summer is unlike any other, with camps and programs across the country canceled as a result of the pandemic, but that does not mean the fun – or learning – has to stop,” said Kelly. “A little creativity can go a long way in ensuring your child or adult stays active and engaged with projects and games, while continuing to practice social distancing.” 

Activities to promote healthy development

Make this a summer to remember – look below for a few activities you and your family can enjoy while spending time at home. 

  • Take dance breaks: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends scheduling physical activities such as stretching or dancing throughout the day to help your child or adult stay healthy and focused. GoNoodle offers free access to dance-along songs, yoga videos, mindfulness activities and more.
  • Play games: Games such as noodle tag, Simon Says and driveway Chutes and Ladders can increase mobility and mental alertness. Organize a treasure hunt – hide 10 to 20 objects inside and/or outside the house – to help your loved one improve his or her memory and concentration. Don’t forget to create a visual checklist so everyone can keep track of the hidden items.
  • Whip up tasty treats: Plan and cook healthy recipes to teach your child or adult about nutrition. Use visual cookbook recipes to make it easier to understand for those with special needs. You can even plan dinner theme nights such as Italian night or Taco Tuesday. 
  • Get crafty: Substitute craft projects for screen time to improve hand-eye coordination. Help your loved one complete science experiments – make homemade Play-Doh, slime or “elephant toothpaste.”
  • Plant seeds of learning: Start an indoor herb garden or terrarium to teach your child or adult about the growing process.
  • Create backyard adventures: Plan the ultimate “staycation” – turn your backyard into your own personal campground or movie theater. Involve everyone in the planning process. An adventure awaits!
  • Show off your talent: Organize a neighborhood (or virtual) talent show. Each family can show off their musical (think homemade instruments) or creative talents while social distancing.
  • Build a connection: Build a birdhouse or an outdoor fort. Enjoy the time spent together as a family as you plan, construct and play. 

Travel … without leaving home

While visiting familiar destinations like national parks, zoos, museums and theme parks may not be possible this summer, below are a host of live webcams and virtual tours to keep you and your family educated and entertained. 

Access a full list of live webcams and virtual tours you can take without leaving home. 

“COVID-19 does not have to mean the end of summer travel and vacation plans,” explained Kelly. “Live webcams and virtual tours provide an up close and personal view of breathtaking beaches, majestic animals, world-renowned artwork and more. This is a safe and convenient way for you and your family to visit a new and exciting place from the safety and comfort of your own home.”

Learn more about Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health.

 

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