Whew! What a year it has been. It is safe to say that everyone has been impacted by COVID, but sometimes the impact on kids and teens can be overlooked or underestimated. At SEA Academy, it has been our experience that middle and high school students have had an extraordinarily difficult time. This makes sense, since adolescence is typically a challenging time anyway. We have been fortunate, due to our extremely small class size, to have been open since July. Even so, the depression and anxiety of our students has been overwhelming in regards to frequency and intensity. In order to address these needs, we have done daily mental health check ins, numerous parent conferences, and made room in the schedule for uplifting activities like group games, going for walks, and peer discussions. We have also paired suggestions for mental health with autism strategies like schedules, visuals, and reinforcers that takes the option out of participating in activities proven to enhance mood. If your child/teen seems to be struggling, or if you are worried they might be, check out this article: Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression – HelpGuide.org. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, here is a list of strategies they recommend:
- Time to talk (daily and distraction free)
- Prevent social isolation
- Get involved in activities, clubs, etc.
- Limit screen time
- Healthy Food
- Sleep Routines
- Seek outside help (teacher, counselor, etc)
- Explore medications
*** Since autism is also present, additional strategies will most likely be needed for your child/teen to access them. A simple example would be to include these strategies on their daily schedule, add a visual of a Sleep Routine in their bedroom, etc.