What does all this uncertainty mean for families with special needs children (and adults)? What about the individuals who are regularly in need of behavioral therapy?

Uncertainty, unpredictability, uncontrollable and unexpected; the only common denominators currently present in every living room across the globe. As a product of the ‘Hustle Culture’ generation, productivity, having a routine, operating on a predictable, measurable and controllable schedule are the known foundational principles of daily living. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has destroyed any set routine, and with it altered any semblance of normalcy. Hence the million-dollar question remains; how can someone find comfort amidst so much uncertainty? We need to take a step back and identify how we as a generation have become so obsessed with constant productivity and the need to be busy.

How did we as a generation get so obsessed with productivity?

The industrial revolution economic boom initiated much of the contemporary world today. Fast forward 80 years, add in the explosion of internet, the power of media and dependency on (social) media, we as a generation have become obsessed with being busy. The Harvard Business Review conducted a series of studies examining the idea of how busyness influences social status.

“The more we believe that one has the opportunity for success based on hard work, the more we tend to think that people who skip leisure and work all the time are of higher standing”

(Harvard Business Review, 2016)

We have this deep-rooted idea that routine is a necessity. In order to achieve comfort, productivity in the form of an occupied mind is the only way to control our schedules and in turn our time. ‘Because I am productive and accomplishing so much, I am therefore fully in control of my life’.

So why the sudden, lack of discipline, unproductivity and boredom? Of course, the current social distancing mandate nationwide is absolutely a huge contributor. But the underlying root cause is something else. We are obviously aware of the mental health benefits of having a routine. Functioning on a schedule provides our brains with structure, convenience and most important, comfort. But there will always come a time when we must accept, regardless of planning and perfect execution, some things will always remain uncertain.

Strategies to actually deal with the uncertainty

In the current unclear climate, the objective should be to try to maintain as much discipline from the pre-quarantine days. Lack of structure, allows for an easy slip into a lethargic and pessimistic outlook on life. Solution; start a new routine. Incorporate new activities, inspire a new vision. Dedicate an appropriate amount of time to analyze current habits and rebuild. Learn how structure your day the night before, incorporate positive reinforcements after hours of work. Wake up early, get dressed and integrate activities you look forward to during the day. Exercise restraint from over-consuming media coverage. And most important, allow yourself to disengage from the deceptive notion that productivity is the only driver of happiness, regardless of how (social) media illustrates it. Rein in self-control and mobilize inner discipline in using this self-isolation time to reinforce lasting habits.

What do the professionals say?

I spoke with Jawahar (Juhi) Alvi, PhD candidate in Applied Behavior Analysis, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and co-founder of BASES Group International (Behavior & Special Education Services Group). With over 20 years of behavioral analysis and therapy experience focused on special needs children/families, she was able to provide insight as to what the long-term implications this pandemic and lack of routine may have on already sensitive populations. Parents and caregivers of children with disabilities are facing unprecedented challenges to ‘flatten the curve’.

These families already struggle with language, comprehension, social integration and anxiety, all of which intensifies given the current time. For instance, even though social isolation is the universally publicized approach to restrict the spread of Covid-19, millions of children require regular assistance and therapy for daily tasks, while resources nationwide become scarcer.

“These are children (and adults) who require behavioral therapy and services several times a week, who are now either unable to do so, or have to resort to e-learning. Within the last month, the entire model of therapy-based services has forcefully shifted to a fully tele-therapy structure.”

Are there long term mental health implications for special needs families?

In terms of the economics on paper, tele-therapy is undoubtedly efficient. It saves time, cut costs and shows the industry is evolving with time. However, Behavioral specialists are scrambling to account for those individuals who are socially and financially affected due to this compulsory change. Is tele-behavioral therapy as affective in perhaps a high functioning child who already struggles with attention? Children (and adults) who already find social integration difficult for example, are now unable to study in a controlled environment. As parents/caregivers are having to reshape their routines, children are involuntarily affected. The financial toll of potentially losing work as a result of the mandatory transformation, puts additional social pressures on each special needs family. This can possibly strain relationships, further affecting the mental health of an already autistic (special needs) child.

“We will absolutely see a ripple effect regarding the long-term implications this pandemic and in turn this shift in culture will have on behavioral services/health in this country. The change in routine has proven overwhelming to all of us, but the concern for the lasting effect this will have on special needs children (and adults) is very real. Only time will tell.”


First post:

Check out all the amazing work Jawahar and her team are doing across Chicagoland, Pakistan and the Middle east!

URL: https://basesgroupinc.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BASES-ABA-Therapy-101621964520410/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jawahar110/

6 thoughts on “How to deal with unpredictability at a time like this? (Covid-19 pandemic)”

  1. Very eye opening. This health care system takes advantage of the under privileged. Excellent job speaking up for the voiceless !

  2. “Exercise restraint from over-consuming media coverage, and most important, allow yourself to disengage from the deceptive notion that productivity is the only driver of happiness, regardless of how the (social) media illustrates it.”

    👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

  3. Uncovering the loopholes and racial bias in the US healthcare system, specially for the under-served communities is a great service to people wanting to know more about public health. keep it up !!

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