Webinar Series to Give Caregivers Tips for Teaching Children With Disabilities During Pandemic

Peggy Schaefer-Whitby
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Peggy Schaefer-Whitby

University of Arkansas professor Peggy Schaefer-Whitby has teamed up with the state's Center for Exceptional Families to support caregivers who are educating children with disabilities at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly a dozen special education experts across Arkansas — and two other states — have created a three-part webinar series to assist parents who may be struggling.

The online series will start at 2 p.m. Thursday, April 9. The two other dates are April 23 and May 7, also at 2 p.m.

Schaefer-Whitby encouraged presenters to consider the unique challenges families could be facing during the pandemic, including job loss, poverty, multiple people in one home, and the possibility that more than one individual in the family could be disabled.

"We believe that during this crisis, families who have children with significant disabilities are under even more stress," Schaefer-Whitby said. "These webinars were created to help families manage stress and provide simple strategies that can be implemented in the home to help support their children. "

She said these families may have seen a multitude of resource lists offering up things to do with their children. However, many of the resources are not modified for their children and parents may grow frustrated trying to provide needed education. 

Schaefer-Whitby said webinar topics have been carefully selected in response to the needs of families with children who have significant disabilities: Managing Stress and Building Routines to Lessen the Stress, The Importance of Play and Teaching Life Skills, and Managing Behavior and Discipline.

Suzanne Kucharczyk, program coordinator for Inclusive Educational and Clinical Programs at the U of A, will be among speakers on Thursday's webinar.

"This is an opportunity for us to support families who are among the most challenged during this time," she said. "I will present on ways families can incorporate skill-building into everyday activities for their older children with disabilities in order to support the running of the home, keep youth engaged during their time at home, and prepare for adult life. I'll also share some tips for troubleshooting to help ease stress for families and youth."

The Center for Exceptional Families, an organization that provides support to families across the state with children who have disabilities, is sponsoring the webinars.

"So many of our families are struggling with the burden of being parent/teacher/playmate/therapist for their children in this trying time," said Shelby Knight, executive director of the center. "Our goal is to provide parents with useful information along with the support they need to keep them moving forward as a family in this pandemic crisis."

Organizers feel it's their responsibility to step up and help families who are trying to manage at-home programming for special education, therapy services, or medical care 24 hours a day.

"We want to validate their struggles and give them whatever help we can at this time of need," Schaefer-Whitby said.

Read more about how the U of A is Determined to Help

Contacts

Shannon Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
479-575-3138, magsam@uark.edu

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