Most parents are feeling the challenge of figuring out learning at home for their kids in the months ahead. Parents of students with special needs face even greater challenges as they adjust to limited supports and outlets for young family members.
Inclusion NWT is working to relieve some of that strain for families. Executive director Lynn Elkin said it’s been a tough time for families that rely on respite supports.
“We put the respite service initially on hold,” Elkin said, “and told families that if it was an emergency, they could contact us and we would figure out how to provide some [person-to-person] support for their family member.
“But what we have done is reach out regularly and check in with our families.”
The organization is trying to find new ways to help parents have much-needed breaks during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are sending activity packages customized to each person with things they would enjoy or would engage with, that they can do at home,” said Elkin.
“For some of our older respite clients – who might be in high school or junior high age, who like to visit with the respite worker – the option is there to do phone or video respite.”
Keeping relationships intact is considered vital for many of Inclusion NWT’s clients and staff, as is the safety of family members with a disability.
“Most families are highly concerned for their family members from a safety perspective,” said Elkin. “We certainly want to encourage staying at home, but if a family needs us to take somebody out for a walk – fully masked and with protective gear – we’ll try to figure that out.”
Elkin said individualized service has always been provided to clients and that won’t change during the pandemic.
“We just have a few other restrictions around what we can do,” she said.
“If a family comes to me and says, ‘We think this can work,’ and I feel that it’s safe for both the family individual and our worker, then we’ll figure it out and make it work. We’re here and ready to work.”
Group activities across the NWT have been shut down, so Inclusion NWT has moved online with skills training activities and adult literacy classes.
The Odd Job Squad – which helps people with disabilities find short-term work while they search for longer-term employment – will resume once restrictions have been lifted by the chief public health officer.
Usually, Inclusion NWT has a host of summer camp options open to youth and adults. Elkin said the organization hopes some of that programming can still take place.
“We are absolutely looking at [running] our normal summer camp,” she said.
“I have committed to all of the summer students I told I was hiring. I am hiring [them] and they will be back shortly and we may have an option to start.”