Crisis Schooling Exhaustion in Special Education is Real

distance learning iep special education special needs Apr 27, 2020

Crisis schooling exhaustion is real.

It's not just you, your routine (or lack of routine) or something that you can just figure out and then it goes away.

Think back to when you've had other changes in your life forced into your daily routines.

Maybe it was a move, a marriage, a divorce, a death, a job change, special needs challenges or a surprise medical diagnosis ... whatever it was, it was exhausting. But it was different. You knew the exhaustion was temporary and you either had survived this type of life change before or you knew someone who had gone through it. In fact, you or that someone you know probably came out stronger on the other side.

Here's the huge difference of what is happening right now. You and your children or students have been forced into a huge change, it's exhausting, and we don't know when it will end. We don't even have specific examples of how people have survived this in the past because schools have NEVER been shut down like this before. 

I'm not going to share with you some magical steps that are going to make your crisis schooling easier or more productive with false promises of how a visual schedule is going to lure your children into completing every task without complaining.

I am going to share with you what I know works, deep down in my gut, when exhaustion and overwhelm takes over during big changes. Those big things I talked about... a move, marriage, divorce, job change and everyday special needs struggles + medical complexities. Yep, I've been through them all... some of them more than once.

So here we go...

Step One: Say No.  A lot. Another Zoom meeting on the schedule, say no. Feeling guilty because you aren't making blanket forts. Say no to the guilt and the forts. Someone in the house asks you to get something for them and they are completely capable of doing it themselves, say no. (Ugh, that's a big one that I still struggle with on many days.) Another worksheet packet. Nope. Another book report. Not gonna do it.

Step Two: Leave Space. You cannot start saying NO and then fill up your time with all the things "you should be doing" because now you have time. Moms, dads, teachers, you need some space to think in your day. You need space to not rush from the Virtual IEP to doing the 6th load of laundry. You need space to decide on what you FEEL like doing vs what you think you should be doing.

When I'm leading Master IEP Coaches in learning how to run their small business from home and fulfill their family obligations, we call these spaces "margins". You have to have a margin in between your plans. It's the only way to breathe. Seriously, this space to do nothing and just FEEL or do something you WANT to do for 10-15 minutes (or longer!) is going to be one of the hardest habits to try, but it is so worth it when you figure out how to get some space in your schedule.

FYI: Notice I didn't say alone time. I'm not clueless. I know we are all stuck together, but space isn't necessarily alone time. It's "I'm not doing anything I don't want to do for anyone for X minutes".

Step Three: Do things differently. Those rose colored glasses you were wearing when you made your new "homeschool" schedule need to be thrown in the trash. Reality is that if you are exhausted, something isn't working. If you say NO, take some space to create margins between your obligatory activities, and then you go back to saying yes and doing "all the things"... this doesn't work. You have to choose, once you say no and take space, HOW you are going to do things differently.

Here are some ideas that might help you do things differently:

  • Between 3pm and 5pm no school work will be done. 
  • No laundry will be done on Fridays.
  • We will only do official "distance learning" on M/W/F. (I can't take credit for that one. A Master IEP Coach made this choice for her family.)
  • You will only cook one meal per day. Everything else needs to be leftovers or easy prep (frozen foods). I implemented this rule a long time ago, as a single mom, who decided to homeschool while working full time. It still works today.

I can hear what some of you are thinking... BUT my school is MAKING it MANDATORY that my child do (task, zoom, homework) and if we don't then (consequence).

If you're here, then your child or your students have an IEP and that means that you get to individualize their program to meet their "unique needs". Right now a child's "unique needs" MUST include whatever is happening at home. As for that consequence that is being put out there, most likely that's not going to happen and if it does, you can get it fixed.

Schools have no idea what they are doing. The traditional IEP is a document that doesn't make sense in our current situation. So we are going back to basics of the the foundation of Special Education - to meet a child's UNIQUE needs and to prepare them for further education, employment and independent living. 

If we're really going to meet a child's Unique Needs, let's work together to get families (and teachers) feeling better with less exhaustion because the bottom line is that we have no idea how long we are going to have to sustain this lifestyle of distance learning either in full or in combination with a return to school in the Fall.

No matter what happens next, we're in this together for the long haul. 

Important Note: I mentioned Master IEP Coaches above. Find out how YOU can become a Master IEP Coach here.

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