COVID-19 took the world by storm. So many of us were forced to live life differently and adjust. One of the most impacted settings for a lot of people has been inside the workplace. Since we provide school-based ABA services, we most definitely had to adjust. Working with children always has its challenges, but add in a highly contagious virus and things get more complicated. COVID-19 has brought a lot of changes to those operating in a school system. In this post we are going to focus on those changes as it relates to social emotional development and mental health. Understanding them allows us to give grace to our children, parents, faculty and staff.
Social emotional health is the ability to understand and manage emotions, reactions and relationships. It consists of self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. The act of teaching social emotional learning is developing these five areas in a person’s life. Mental health is a state of well-being in which people understand their abilities, cope with stress, and work productively in society. School should be a great place to improve social emotional and mental health. While some mental disorders can be genetic, caused by trauma or other uncontrollable situations, experiences in school can positively impact the progression of a child’s mental health. This is why a good school environment is important. But what happens when that school environment is compromised by a global pandemic? What happens when the methods that teachers were trained and the way they were accustomed to teaching are no longer possible?
One of the great things about school is social life, especially for extroverts. This includes children interacting with peers and also with authority figures. Children may not have structure or discipline at home, but they go to school and learn how to interact with those in an authoritative role. A kid may be an only child, but they go to school and learn how to share, communicate, work in teams, etc. A teacher may not be technologically savvy and faces difficulty interacting with a student through zoom. We have seen situations where a student will simply log out of zoom, mute themselves, or turn their cameras off making it hard for teachers to focus on instruction. Also, teachers would find support from and grow social skills with their coworkers. Teachers have increased hours and are experiencing burnout. These are all problems schools have had to work around.
“Nearly half of the teachers in a nationwide survey conducted during the height of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic reported working almost an entire extra day while teaching from home, with some working in excess of 20 hours extra per week.”
Students that transitioned to on campus learning are faced with mandated mask regulations. Masks prevent the use of facial expressions as a social skill. There are some people in the special needs community that do not have the skills to converse verbally and need visuals like a smile.
These are only a few challenges as every experience is personal and different. We just want to remind you to give your children and their educators some grace. School administrators and teachers are doing the best they can considering a lot of changes so quickly. Students are doing the best they can. It is also important to mention that very young students barely understand what is going on and there can be frustration that comes with that. What helps is that we are all in this together. We can all support each other!
We would love to hear your COVID experiences and adjustments you had to make. Hopefully, we are nearing the end of this pandemic!