Helping you to manage life at home

The current situation is hard for everyone and particularly difficult for some families with a child or young person with special educational needs. The change in routine, worries about family and friends, living closely together and the sudden end of outside support can all have a major effect on your family life at home.

Devon nurseries, schools and colleges as well as support services are reshaping to try and meet the needs of children and families in the best way possible. Many that offered face to face services are switching to telephone or virtual support. Staff in schools and colleges are available to support you, and for most families they will be your first port of call for extra help.

The information below aims to answer some of the questions that parents have been asking us over the last few weeks. DiAS is open and you can call and ask for advice and support if you need it. Check out the contact us page for more details.

You can also find more Q and As about coronavirus and resources to support you and your child or young person with home learning, managing anxiety and understanding what’s happening.

We’re worried about having to teach our children at home. How is that going to work?

Some families are going to find educating children at home challenging, especially if parents are working from home or children are anxious, unsettled or distressed. Most of us aren’t teachers and many parents would admit they don’t feel confident about helping their child with schoolwork. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, under unintended pressure from other people and stressed out about the thought of managing your child’s education for the next few weeks or months.
You’re not expected to do this on your own. It’s your child’s school or college’s job to support you with your child’s learning and make sure you and your child understand what to do and how to do it. School staff will be setting work and learning activities for all children to do throughout the school week. Many will also be giving feedback to children and young people and staying in contact with families with a child with SEND.
Children with SEND get all kinds of extra support in school, from social skills groups to literacy interventions and from sensory breaks to one to one learning support. Lessons are also usually differentiated by your child’s teacher. That means the level at which your child is learning may be higher or lower than that of other children in their class, so work is changed to meet their needs. This is something that teachers do every day, but it’s not something that you’re expected to be doing at home.
Much of the work being set will be designed to meet the needs of the average child in the class and your child is likely to need some support to understand and do what’s being offered. Talk to your child’s teacher(s) about how you can adjust things for your child, what kind of approach they would be taking at school or how to support your child’s learning.
It would be a reasonable adjustment to ask for school and college staff to find other ways to support your child. Some schools and colleges are providing this kind of support.
  • Regular video calls with a teaching assistant or someone from learning support, depending on a child’s need.
  • Email contact between older children and young people and their teachers.
  • Small group work with other students and a teacher using video conferencing.
  • Weekly telephone calls with a teacher to talk about any problems or to see how things are going.
  • Exchanging letters and postcards between children and teaching assistants and support staff.
  • Regular text, email phone or video conferencing call between staff and young people.
  • Arranging IT equipment for some students who don’t have it at home or sending paper copies of work out by post.
  • Using online learning software and apps, as well as providing links to websites that offer extra resources or life skills activities.
  • Virtual classes.
  • Online story time with teachers.

If your child has an EHC plan, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to have the exact support that is set out in the plan. But the school, the local authority and other support services will do what they can to give support in other ways. Talk to the SENCO or your child’s teacher to find out how they will be supported in the coming weeks.


How can we support our children with home learning?

The first thing to remember is that although schools and colleges may not be physically open for your child to go to school, they are still open. Many staff including the SENCO, teachers and teaching assistants are working, though some schools may be short staffed because of illness and for other reasons. If you’re worried or you need help, talk to the staff at your child’s school or college first.
Here are a few tips that may help.
  • Be realistic about what your child can manage and accept that your child may not be able to do much, if any, schoolwork at home. These are challenging times and your priority may be to help your child be emotionally in control and regulated, and not have a meltdown each day.
  • Talk to your child about home learning and discuss how it is going to work. Get their views about the best way to manage and the kind of help they think they will need.
  • Keep in touch with school and let them know how you’re managing, ask them to contact you and your child regularly, in a way that’s going to work for your child.
  • Make a daily and weekly plan for you and your children so that they know what is happening and when. You can involve your children in deciding what happens when so that they have some choice. Many children tend to be more able to focus in the mornings. So, you may decide that in the morning you’ll do the activities where they need to concentrate most and leave creative and physical activities for later in the day. Make sure there is time for regular breaks, including sensory breaks if your child needs those.
  • If you have a partner and you can share the load, do. Many parents take turns to be the ‘teacher’ so that everyone gets a break. If you’re working at home you might want to schedule in ‘quiet time’ every day where your child can watch a film or do an activity that doesn’t need you to be there, so that you can work hopefully uninterrupted.
  • Start with small amounts of learning and work up. For example, could your child manage 10 minutes of reading to begin with and add then in 10 mins of maths the following day and then 10 minutes of literacy?
  • For most children, these weeks where they’re not in school will be a small part of their overall educational journey. Some parents have decided to help their children ‘learn’ in all sorts of ways, but not necessarily within the curriculum. Baking, making things, getting creative, being outdoors, learning how to get along with others, finding ways to relax and learning new life skills are all learning and many children do it without even realising they’re being ‘educated’.
  • There are lots of online education resources for you to use, covering every subject and at every level, many of which are free for now. But sometimes it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Do what you feel that you can manage – a good place for ideas is the Department for Educations list.
  • For some children, school is as much about relationships as it is about learning. Think about who your child’s main relationships are at school – teachers, teaching assistants, learning support staff and friends. Try to keep these relationships going as well as you can, to help your child keep a sense of belonging, to help them feel important and remembered by people at school.
  • Lots of parents are worried about the amount of screen time their child is getting, while also accepting that it’s likely to be more than usual just now. It’s a good idea to mix up the type of screen time your child is getting so that they’re using it for social time, learning and being creative as well as for game playing and relaxation.

My child’s behaviour is becoming more challenging and we’re struggling to manage it. I’m worried that we’re not safe at home.

If you, a family member or your child are at immediate risk of harm, call 999.
If you’re worried about the safety of your child or any member of your family then you can contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). MASH is the central resource for the whole of Devon for all child safeguarding enquiries. It’s staffed with professionals from a range of agencies including health, mental health, education, social care, police, early years, youth offending and domestic abuse services. They can help to find you the right support.
If your child has a social worker, contact them or if you can’t get hold of them, call the duty social worker. If you have an adopted child or are fostering a child, or you’re getting support from disabled children’s services, there people you can contact too. Talk to them about what’s happening and what your concerns are and ask for help and support.
  • Children’s social care
    If you know the name of the person you need to speak to, ring 01392 383000 and say the name when you’re asked to. You can reach the emergency Duty Service on 0345 600 0388.
  • Disabled Children Service
    If you already have a named person supporting your child, they should be your first point of contact. If not, you can contact the support and advice duty number on 01392 385276.
  • Adopt South West
    Telephone advice and support line open from 9.00am-4.00pm Monday-Friday, 0345 155 1076.
  • Fostering Devon
    Contact your supervising social worker or the Fostering Devon Duty Line on 01392 381491.
Devon County Council have written information about current support from social care. This is their advice if your home situation is getting worse:
“You need to request an assessment in the usual way. Our timescales for assessment haven’t changed, but it is likely that some of the contact we will have with families will be virtual in order to minimise the risk to everyone.
If you have recently made a request for an assessment or had confirmation an assessment will be completed and you feel the situation is deteriorating, please get in touch with either the Single Point of Access (for new referrals) or the duty number for the relevant team.
Support and Advice Duty: 01392 385276
Exeter, East & Mid Social Work Team Duty: 01392 386183
South Social Work Team Duty: 01392 381270
North Social Work Team Duty: 01271 384180”
If your child has been at home rather than in school until now, but your situation at home changes, it doesn’t mean they have to stay at home. Talk to the SENCO or your child’s teacher. If your child isn’t safe at home and is putting themselves or others at risk, then they may need to be in school or college during school hours. If they have an EHC plan, the school will do a risk assessment and talk to you about meeting their needs. If they don’t have an EHC plan, then the staff at school also need to assess them and see whether school may be the safest place for them.
You can also ask for an early help assessment. This can help to identify the kind of support you might need, and which services might be best able to help you.  You can ask a professional such as a teacher to contact the early help team or make a referral, or you can contact local area teams directly. Meeting face to face is won’t be possible but online and telephone support is likely to be.

Do whatever you can to calm things at home. You know your child best, so do whatever is likely to work for them and not lead to further escalation. You could think about creating a safe space for them and you, do sensory activities, allow them time apart to calm down or give them time in to connect with you. Some families find that limiting screen time helps as does getting outside for exercise. If you get help from other services or therapists, contact them to ask how they can support you too.

The specialist Communication and Interaction team in Devon have published information about how to manage if your child is anxious, becomes overwhelmed, is at risk of running away or doesn’t understand why it’s important to stay at home.


How can I help my child to cope with all this stress and uncertainty?

Many children and young people will understandably be worried and unsettled at the moment and even very young children will probably be picking up on stress and anxiety from the adults around them. Life is looking very different than it was a few weeks ago and many of the certainties and structures in our children’s lives have gone.
There are lots of resources available to help you support your child or young person to manage their feelings and anxiety – there are some on our webpages and lots more produced by local and national support organisations and services.
Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are now offering additional crisis support.  If your child or young person (under 18) is having a mental health crisis, you can now access CAMHS 24/7. Please contact 03300 245 321 during normal hours (8am-5pm, Mon to Fri) or 0300 555 5000 outside these hours. Callers will speak to a call handler, their call will be forwarded to a voicemail service and their message will be returned within one hour. If it’s an emergency don’t wait, call 999.
The specialist Communication and Interaction team in Devon have published information about how to manage if your child is anxious, becomes overwhelmed, is at risk of running away or doesn’t understand why it’s important to stay at home.
You might find these general tips helpful too – they’re based on Public Health England’s guidance on children’s mental health and wellbeing.
  • Many children with special educational needs (SEN) express how they’re feeling through their behaviour. They might be more easily triggered by things and seem angry, irritable or upset. Their behaviour may change so they might seem withdrawn or quiet or need you more than usual. Some children regress in emotional age and behaviour when they’re stressed. So for example, a child that was dry at night may start wetting the bed, or a child that that took themselves to bed and settled without you may want you to be there. Go with this and adjust your expectations about what they can manage. If they’re behaviour isn’t what it usually is, it’s a good sign they’re worried or stressed.
  • Find ways to help your child say how they’re feeling and acknowledge how hard things are for them at the moment. You know your child best, so help them find a way to communicate that works for them. Be supportive and reassure them that it’s OK to not feel OK. Focus on listening to and acknowledging their feelings to help them feel supported.
  • Give clear information about the situation that’s appropriate to your child’s emotional age and ability. All children and young people want to feel that their parents and caregivers can keep them safe. The best way to do this is by talking openly about what is happening and providing honest answers to any questions they have. Explain what is being done to keep them and their loved ones safe, including any actions they can take to help, such as washing their hands regularly.
  • Think about how you are coming across to them. If you’re anxious, they will sense that and it’s likely to make them feel worse. Your children rely on you to help them feel safe – if you can be calm, kind and honest it will help them to feel better.
  • Connect with your child regularly. If you’re at home with them, make some time each day to just be with each other doing something you enjoy together. If you can’t physically be with them for whatever reason, have regular contact often by phone or video calls.
  • Have a routine for your days at home – stick to similar times for getting up, going to bed and mealtimes. Make a plan for your week so that they know roughly what will happen and when – include school time, relaxing, physical activity and play or creative tasks.
  • It’s difficult to avoid the media completely, but it is a good idea to limit what your child sees and hears. Too much news or social media can make many young people (and adults) feel anxious and overwhelmed. Let them know it’s OK to talk about what they have seen and heard and OK to talk to you about their worries or ask questions.

Share this:

Page published 4 May 2020 Updated regularly