The Covid-19 pandemic that hit our shores in 2020 kept us home for safety reasons. But was staying home for a prolonged period beneficial for everyone involved? In this #AskFFL interview, Dr Elly Sabrina, Families for Life council member, family doctor and Director of Banyan Clinic, shared her views on how Covid-19 has affected the lives of special needs children during the circuit breaker.

The Importance of Routines and Social Connection

“The circuit breaker disrupted the routines of special needs children. A typical day that would involve going to school in the mornings and enrichment or exercise after, could no longer take place. As a result, these children experienced a lot of stress,” explained Dr Elly.

Besides a disrupted routine, Dr Elly pointed out that not having access to important healthcare services such as speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy can lead to the regression in their progress or cause any progress they have made to slow down. She elaborated: “These children also need interpersonal interactions with peers in order to make good progress. This was lacking as Singapore shifted to digital learning in 2020. With priority being placed on their physical safety, the lack of emphasis on their emotional health has had a negative impact on the progress of some of my young patients.”

Connect Through Regular and Meaningful Routines

To combat these effects, Dr Elly opined that family cohesiveness is the key to ensuring that these children receive the attention and care they need. For instance, in the absence of school, parents have to assume the role of teachers to keep their children engaged and prevent further regression in their abilities. “Think out of the box. Bring out old toys or board games that have been kept in the store. Create new meaningful routines and engage in fun social activities as a family to fill up the time spent at home,” she suggested.

Learning simple new skills like cooking or gardening can also keep them focused and involved for a long time, thus, minimising their stress. For children who are active, Dr Elly encouraged families to make space at home for some daily exercise.

With the COVID-19 pandemic situation constantly evolving, Dr Elly believes that parents play a more vital role than before in helping special needs children adapt to the new changes. “Family is their safest place. So, spend time with your children. Show them you love them, that you understand them and will always be there to help them adapt to any situation. If parents do this consistently, their children will acquire the resilience they need to withstand any challenge in future,” she advised.

The original content of this interview was adapted from an interview on Warna 94.2FM with Dr Elly Sabrina as part of the #AskFFL series.