Homeschooling My Daughter with Down Syndrome

During these crazy times of school closings and social distancing, the already busy day-to-day, now has additional challenges. I’m a remote teacher, for 5th grade students, which is a full-time job, in and of itself. Add to that, having a child with special needs home from school, who also needs to keep up with schoolwork and you have an extremely stressful environment. I pray every morning that I make the right decisions, teach in a way my students need, and can also be a great mom.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love having my girl home with me. The trouble arises when I’m in a live zoom with my students and she inevitably needs attention. Faith has become much more self-sufficient , especially in the past year. She’s 14 years old now, so now more than ever, I try to teach her to do things for herself. Having said that, there are times she needs needs help with certain tasks.

If you haven’t read my previous posts, Faith has Down Syndrome and is very smart but non-verbal and not 100% potty trained. She’s come a long way and improves all the time. But there are times she needs her Mommy. I usually allow her the opportunity to ‘figure it out’ on her own first. But when I hear her noises of frustration, I know all too well, I know it’s time for me to intervene.

The problem is, if I’m in a live zoom meeting with my students, I can’t just walk away. My heart breaks and I immediately grow anxious as I hear her grunts and yells, from the other room. When that happens, it’s most often because she needs help on the potty or got into something in the kitchen (one day she discovered the garbage disposal button). If she’s TOO quiet, I worry as well. There have been times she just decided to leave the house. That of-course is emergent. So, on any given day, I need to quickly assess the type of noise she’s making. Being non-verbal, she makes a variety of sounds and over the years, I’ve learned to ascertain the meaning of each. During those times that Faith is struggling, I have to decide what to do. Do I cut my lesson short? Can I trust 5th graders to behave and stay on task if I were to walk away from the computer? Do I allow her to struggle, continue to squelch my guilt and keep teaching? Admittedly, I’ve done all of the above at different times, depending on the level of Faith’s calls for help.

It’s torture to have to choose my job over my daughter, or vice versa. I hate to ‘ignore’ my daughter, but I also feel guilty to leave my students given the fact that this is a difficult learning situation for them, and they need me as well. When all is said and done. I can only do what my heart says is best at the time. My daughter has Down Syndrome and needs assistance in the bathroom or can get into a dangerous situation.

For the most part, my days are, although busy, for the most part, successful. Typically, I can get Faith occupied with a puzzle or two, or even an episode of Dora, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or the Doodle Bops, while I’m teaching. I also learned quickly, into our remote learning, to take our potty breaks before I go on my live zoom lessons. There are times I bring Faith to the computer to wave to my students or take part in our virtual Science experiment. In that case, not only am I killing two birds with one stone, but it’s good for all involved. It becomes a great opportunity to create Down Syndrome Awareness for my students and Faith benefits from the Science lesson. I have recently added a 2-3 minute Sign Language mini-lesson for my 5th graders. Again, I’m involving Faith, and spreading awareness. My students LOVE it! Win-Win!!!

Then, during my lunch break, everyday, I work with Faith on her skills. On this given day, pictured here, we used our ‘piggy bank’ (in our case dog) to sort and count money. Then used Boggle Jr. to practice our reading, spelling, sign language and speech. As you can see, Faith loves it!

Faith was so proud, she took this picture herself.

The bottom line is, all we can do is our best. Some days we fall short. Other days we can pull it off without a hitch. I’m working on, not being so hard on myself and I recommend you do the same.

We are living in crazy, stressful times. The key word is WE. Many of us have similar circumstances, trying to work from home while homeschooling our kids. Find relief in venting to your friends in similar situations. Make time for yourself to de-stress. Hopefully, this post at the very least, helps you to realize you are not alone. Working from home and being mom is a tall order, but we need to play our best hand given the cards we’ve been dealt.

So, to all the other “Special Needs Moms” out there, you are doing a terrific job! Believe in yourself. And always remember to Have a Little Faith.

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