The Parenting Support Program (PSP), a home visiting program specifically designed to meet the needs of women with intellectual or developmental disabilities and are either pregnant or parenting has a unique set of challenges. During COVID-19 some of these challenges were exacerbated as well as new unexpected ones arose.
As a home visitor who typically meets the parents in natural environments, finding new ways to communicate was perhaps the greatest challenge. Other challenges include connecting families with local resources, creating a safe space, and maintaining healthy rapport. To maintain rapport with the families a trusting relationship is necessary. For newly enrolled families building this trust remotely required me to be persistent and flexible meeting individual parent’s hesitations or reservations. In-person meetings, although not necessarily easy for home visitors, provides a physical connection that is often reassuring.
Due to limited resources, some families struggled with basic needs such as food, and other necessities. Thus my role expanded to helping families secure necessities and coach them in how to secure this independently. Community resources, especially in the several weeks were stretched thus supporting families to be persistent and flexible was needed.
A strength of the PSP is supporting parents to support their children’s developmentally needs. The lack of electronic devices and Wi-Fi connections creates added family stress. Many families’ used phones to access educational materials thus maintaining children’s engagement in their education/lessons was particularly difficult. According to parents I serve, children with Individualized Education Plans are having issues with implementing their needed services on a virtual platform. Most of the families I serve have children home full-time, which makes focusing on home visiting over a virtual platform even more difficult.
I’ve learned to be more creative with implementing curriculum, and engaging families in their child’s development. The use of visual aids such as large post-it sheets, to go over the contents of our lessons has help to maintain engagement. I’ve also learned to stay conscious of the mental stress and anxiety that comes along with social distancing. Being flexible and willing to adjust planned topics is a huge part of my role during this transition. Social distancing is difficult, and has taught me to always make sure I’m emotionally available for the families I serve. Patience with families has also played a part in how I communicate and build their parental confidence. Considering the added stress put on families, I don’t take missing scheduled visits or calls personally.
Something that hasn’t changed is my motivation to empower and build the confidence of parents with intellectual disabilities.
Parenting Support Program