What can we do to help? We watched as the Gulf Coast, the Southeast, and the Caribbean Regions were decimated by hurricanes. We watched as wildfires in California, Montana, Oregon, and Washington State burned over 2 million acres of land. In our office in Pittsburgh we stared wide-eyed at each other as far away friends lost their homes in Florida, as speech language clinicians who trained with CASANA lost their practices in Texas, and as we wait for word from treasured conference speakers who call Puerto Rico home. And still we ask, what can we do to help?
Individually we do what we can to help our friends and neighbors in the areas that have been devastated, but collectively what about our organization? We are an association that prides itself on providing resources for our families and for the speech language pathologists who treat our children. In this time of need that’s what we will continue to do.
It goes without saying that there is absolutely nothing more important for our families than surviving the disasters that continue to rock our country. Speech therapy is the very last thing anyone should be thinking about when finding shelter, food, and water are paramount concerns. The time will come though when families will find their new normal and begin to fall back into the routines that right now seem so very far away. Until that time, we urge you to take the time to mourn your losses and know that, for now, there are more important things than speech therapy and fitting in home practice.
Following are a few suggestions for what you can do for yourself and for your family during this difficult time:
- Know that its’ okay not to go to therapy or to continue home practice during stressful times. We know that some children may experience setbacks in communication during these difficult days. Generally this is not a result of missing speech sessions, but rather a temporary stumbling block created by circumstances out of your control. It’s important to note that not all children will experience a regression in their speech skills during challenging times.
- If at all possible, continue to read to your child. Reading to your child will not only enhance speech and language skills, but spending time with you and being close to you will comfort your child.
- It’s important to remember to still talk to your child at a level they can understand. Your child may not have the ability to ask questions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have them!
- Remember to hug your child often! They may not be able to ask you for the comfort they need, and this is especially true for our children with apraxia. In the midst of hardships, it’s important for the adults in a child’s life to acknowledge the child’s feelings, including their fears.
- Try to remember to slow down your rate of speech when talking with your child. Slower speech and softer tones will be not only be reassuring to your child, but will continue to provide good speech models for them to hear.
- Remember that play can be a means through which your child can deal with traumatic experiences in a healthy way. Children will still want and need to play in the middle of a disaster. If you are playing with your child, you may have to fill in the words if they can’t.
- Remember that CASANA is always here for you!
Following are a list of just some of the resources available for families with young children who are rebuilding their lives:
Thoughts from Mr. Rogers for when tragic events occur
Addressing the Post-Disaster Legal Needs of Displaced Students
Helping Children After a Natural Disaster
Helping Children with ASD, SPD, and other Special Needs through Natural Disasters
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has information and a number of resources for children affected by floods, and hurricanes