Did you know that approximately 20% of U.S. households have a child with special needs? This means that out of 100 employees with children, 20 of them could be struggling to support those additional needs at home.

So, how many of your employees are struggling at home? What does this mean? What does it look like? What is their truth?

OUR NEW NORMAL

In the first episode of our podcast “Hiding in Plain Sight – Your Workforce at Home with Special Needs Children” we discuss the “new normal” regarding what work from home looks like through the lens of parents of special needs children. Currently for many people, home is the new workplace, and for many of those, a sudden turn-around didn’t give much of an opportunity for planning or transitioning. There was no orientation, no online tutorial, and certainly no built-in childcare.

Being parents to special needs children during the COVID-19 pandemic can be particularly challenging and frustrating. The hidden truth about employees who have family members with special needs is not a dirty secret. In fact, it’s a truth that we all must face.

The reality for many employers is that they employ the sandwich generation – their workforce is filled with people caring for the generation above and below them, which naturally means they are pulled in a number of directions. Being a good employee, meeting work expectations, and succeeding in their career is important, but so are the loved ones they are responsible for.

THE CHALLENGES

Adding remote work to an already full agenda can be quite distracting and is arguably leaving many employees feeling like they aren’t filling any one role successfully. If they are a good at-home teacher for their child’s online schooling, then they feel like they aren’t being a good employee and could be struggling to meet their work goals.

What if your child isn’t able to participate in online education independently? What if your child’s daily programming offers one-on-one support and attention while you are at work, and now, you are expected to be the provider of that one-on-one attention? What if your child does not feel safe without you being in the same room? How does that affect your attention during a Zoom meeting?

There is a clash here. Over the years, we’ve found that what truly works for families and working parents doesn’t always mesh with the expected work period. For example, if a parent needs to work from 9 a.m.-5p.m., maybe scheduling or completing some of the instruction or therapy for their child is easier after working hours. Or maybe they find time on the weekend to meet these objectives.

During this emergency period, everyone seems to be adjusting. We’ve heard that all parents are struggling to find a schedule or a groove that works for them. Educational institutions are expecting curriculum learning to happen during school hours, but parents are expected to work during work hours. We think flexibility is key- under normal circumstances, but it’s most certainly critical now.

We hear about a variety of scenarios from families; some have shared how resourceful or supportive employers have been, while others have tried to hide some of their child’s special needs in order to take on a career role where they can support the whole family. These are tough decisions.

IN CLOSING

Work defines many of us. As federal and state governments begin planning to lift stay-at-home orders, the challenges all remote-working parents face – and particularly those of special needs children or adults – won’t go away.

In addition to Part 1 of our podcast “Hiding in Plain Sight - Your Workforce at Home with Special Needs Children”, join us for Part 2 where we explore the application of some solutions to the challenges identified in this blog post.

For some resources on this topic, please visit the organizations noted below, or feel free to contact us at:

Outside resources for your employees and families as they adjust to the new normal:

Social stories for kids and adults to help them understand COVID-19:

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