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Healing Vulnerable Youth While Schooling in a Pandemic

This guide can help educators and parents meet vulnerable students' needs both socially and emotionally in their schooling during COVID-19.

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Global Pandemic
Global Pandemic
Global Pandemic, Pixabay.com

Globally youth are suffering both emotionally and socially during COVID-19. Parents with vulnerable teenagers or young children/adults with autism are struggling to manage schooling. For parents who are essential workers and can’t be home during the day to help with online schooling are worried about who will care and teach their child? Single parents with two or more children, I believe, have the greatest challenge of all, holding the family together psychologically, emotionally, and financially. Of many situations, these are only few situations that parents face and can be devastating to their family’s well-being. 

School leadership has never faced such a dire situation. School districts are doing their best to serve students. Teachers are teaching youth via virtual learning, using online apps, and tech tools and many students are capable of learning in these ways. However, students who are academically struggling or in poverty without resources may require more assistance. School leaders must look for creative ways to educationally and safely meet the students’ learning needs.

Student in Empty Classroom, Pixabay.com

To look for healing solutions, Torres (2020) offers us these appreciative inquiry questions: 

How else can we handle this? 

What needs to happen now? 

What might be possible now? 

What is one small action that would make a difference?

What needs to happen now?

  1. Leaders in education: Focus on the nutritional needs of the students you serve. In addition to home based schooling services, many districts also serve students breakfast and lunch during lockdown. Continue to provide students food for their nutritional needs because for some, two meals daily are the only meals they student will get. 
  1. Look out for the physical and mental well-being of students. During hard times some youth may fall victim to abuse and bullying. To help these students and families, school leaders can turn to community partnerships: mental health centers, church organizations, health centers, and social services.
  1. School Leaders should strive to support the welfare of its administrators and teachers. Don’t place too many tasks and demands on them. Realize they are struggling to supervise and teach while protecting their students, their families, and themselves from COVID-19. Realize educators may be at home instructing their students while also coping to teach their own children. Additionally, recognize there are educators who teach from home who may also be a caregiver to an elderly sick parent. 

What might be possible now?

4. Recognize vulnerable students:

Youth with autism and Asperger’s often exhibit high anxiety in school, get low grades, fall victim to a bully, and for some, become suicidal.

5. Notice the bright spots. 

One study showed that student anxiety levels rose when schools were closed for lockdown, but for some students with autism or Aspergers their anxiety levels dropped significantly. The parents in the study believed their children had lower social anxiety because all the stress of the school demands and bullying wasn’t present. Thus, the safe home environment for these students offered greater learning. One possible solution is for both educators and parents to create safe settings both in school and at home to ensure student security to do assignments. 

How else can educators handle helping these students? 

Both teachers and parents can create a structure for the student to:

-take a slower pace to do their assignments.

-match student with peer buddy.

-create quiet uninterrupted time to focus. 

-design daily structured activities other than assignments. 

-take part in enjoyable leisure activities. 

-get exercise in nature and sunshine.

6. What is one small action that would make a difference?

Start a check-in service whereby students and their families are contacted and asked about any unmet needs they have. Not every parent will reveal needs, but some will. Just being asked can be emotionally relieving to know someone cares. 

7. How else can we handle meeting educational needs of students? Teachers can access resources or create lessons that teach life skills to support student adaptation and resilience. 

With instruction students learn: 

-a perspective of their problems as being temporary, 

-to know when and how to ask for help, and 

-to give self-care. 

With planning teachers can :

-integrate self-awareness and critical thinking skills across curriculum for student’s development of decision-making. 

These questions can guide educators in helping students and their families to develop new skills that may increase their safety, well-being, and self-empowerment. I define self-empowerment as: the understanding of one’s emotions and needs in order to find one’s true voice to dream, to plan, to believe, and to take action for necessary change on behalf of oneself or others. 

Every student matters greatly.

Dr. Jackie Marquette

Educator

Researcher

Author: emotional literacy and careers

Veteran Parent- Adult son with autism

Free resources

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