Caring for people with special needs during the circuit breaker period
SINGAPORE – Parents can find safe ways to organise physical activities at home during the circuit breaker period if their children with developmental needs enjoy going outdoors.
Dr Koh Hwan Cui, principal psychologist at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s department of child development, encourages parents to consider their children’s interests and strengths when planning activities for them.
For example, they can have obstacle races or get the children to dance to music, she says.
If the children do not want to take part in a new activity, parents can take the lead by doing it first and showing them it can be enjoyable, says Dr Koh.
For example, if the kids do not want to exercise, parents can go ahead with the exercise and continue doing it for a week. This shows the children they are also committed to exercising in the stay-at-home schedule.
“Parents are encouraged to provide their children with a variety of activities at home that includes physical exercises, learning and play activities,” she says.
She also cautions against allowing unlimited screen time to keep the children occupied as research shows that excessive screen time is associated with an increased risk of obesity and sleep problems. Poor sleep is also linked to depression, anxiety, hyperactivity and inattention.
She encourages parents to stop all screen activities at least an hour before the children’s bedtime.
Screen time can also be spent watching meaningful and developmentally appropriate programmes and engaging the children in discussions or activities related to these programmes, she adds.
On wearing masks when leaving the house, Dr Koh says parents can consider using games or their children’s favourite activities to have practice sessions at home. They can designate the area near the main door as the “mask-on area” and mark it with a picture of a person wearing a mask.
“They can provide labelled praises, for example, ‘Jay, good job keeping your mask on’ and lots of positive attention such as smiles and high-fives, or tangible rewards like a favourite sticker when the child wears the mask for a specific amount of time,” says Dr Koh.
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