Why sometimes two metres is not enough

Posted On 10 Apr 2020 at 5:00 pm

We all need two metres in this time of social distancing – but some of us sometimes need a little bit more room.

Some families who have children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are finding the current covid-19 measures extremely stressful.

Among other things, they are struggling when out doing essential shopping or taking their daily exercise. Some families have had their social distancing broached by passers-by.

The vast majority of people are aware and accommodating but there have been distressing exceptions and some reports of social distancing being compromised by other people’s behaviour.

It would be helpful if more people could be especially aware and make additional adjustments to support.

There are many reasons why. Here are some of them.

Some children with SEND are classed as “vulnerable”, with underlying health conditions, but still need exercise while parents try to keep them safe.

Parents may not be able to safely leave an older child or young person with SEND at home while they go out for essential shopping

Sometimes parents need an extra pair of hands to keep their child – or children – safe when they’re out. This might mean other brothers or sisters, family member or even a personal assistant need to be in the mix. It can look like we’re mob-handed!

Some young people who have learning disabilities and / or are autistic, with associated conditions, may find it much harder to regulate themselves when they’re out, especially now that their usual key routines are out of the window.

This can make behaviour unpredictable and the children – and their parents – more stressed

Some youngsters need safe open space to burn off their energy so that they can then be more calm when returning to their homes for the rest of the day.

And dogs can also present a challenge. Even as a dog owner, I appreciate that the sudden appearance of a boisterous or even a friendly inquisitive dog off lead can be especially triggering for a youngster who is autistic or with a learning disability.

Parents may not currently have the support that their child usually receives. They may be fire-fighting their day off the back of chronic sleep deprivation and additionally anxious when out with their child or children.

Leo and family by Mike Dicks

Our streets and kerbs can be hard to navigate with buggies and are even more difficult for older children in a wheelchair.

Queuing and prolonged waiting can be exceptionally difficult and induce abnormally high levels of stress.

Stepping off the pavement and walking in the middle of a quiet road may be a way for all to maintain social distance – but it may give a mixed message to youngsters with learning disabilities as it goes against all the “road safety” teaching that parents and teachers instil. Some families need to avoid “breaking these learned rules” at all costs

Some disabilities are hidden. A youngster may have a learning disability or be autistic but it may not be immediately obvious.

Some young people or adults wear a green lanyard with sunflowers on. This is a way to alert others to hidden disability – although not everyone has them and some may not be able to wear them, perhaps because of sensory issues or extreme self-consciousness.

Brighton and Hove is an inclusive city. We take pride in that. So please be extra aware of the people around you.

If that means adapting your behaviour and being the one to quite literally “go out of your way” to maintain social distancing, then please do so.

We appreciate you helping us to keep our loved ones safe. Let’s be the city that takes care of each and every citizen.

Pippa Hodge is Mum to Leo, who is autistic and has Down Syndrome. She co-ordinates the local T21 Families group and is a Steering Group member of Brighton and Hove Parent Carers’ Council (PaCC).

  1. Gary smith Reply

    People were too close to my family on beach today. Their bbq was right next to ours. We left as too busy and went back to burgess hill where quieter. Gary

    • David Reply

      You were both breaking the rules.No bbq’s are currently allowed on the beach during the lockdown.You are supposed to keep moving.You were lucky that you weren’t spoken to by the police.

    • Guardian Hove Reply

      ‘Gary’ having a BBQ on a beach is not a good idea, whilst the majority of thus Country heed Government medical advice to save lives. Try doing a 12hr shift in full PPE in an intensive care unit battling to save patients lives…..you will not be laughing at the end of it.

    • Fishwife, 49 Reply

      Troll score 3/10

  2. Mary Reply

    Bbq on the beach!!! I do not think that is even permitted????

  3. Zoe Fagg Reply

    My son is in a wheelchair and getting him and my two other young children safely off the pavement and into the road is practically difficult. I have spent time with children emphasising what two metres distance looks like . As a result they often ask , ‘ Mummy, why did that person not keep two metres away? Please, if it is easier for you to move tthen do so, as I do when I am out on my own, for others who have their hands full with walking aids , buggies, young children etc

  4. Sam Bayley Reply

    I’m sure Gary thinks he was being funny. Why not read and listen to what Pippa is trying to get across to people. Life can be very hard when you have a child/young adult with extra needs, not just at this point in time but for always.
    Thanks Pippa for writing, very articulately, what many parents and disabled adults are having to cope with.

  5. Ruth Reply

    Fantastic article Pippa. Thank you for writing. My autistic son runs and jumps about a lot so social distancing presents a challenge. I likely live in a quite area near the downs. It’s quiet funny when we are out for a walk seeing on comers have to move side to side quiet a few times before they get to us in anticipation of him!!!

  6. Brenda Cole Reply

    Thank u Pippa that is most certainly an eye opener.
    I certainly if I can make the move first to ensure the 2m rule is followed.
    I am wondering if these families should be part of the group that need shielding.
    May be the volunteers in their areas can help with shopping.

    • Pippa Reply

      Hi Brenda, thanks for reading and replying. The official ‘shielding’ guidelines are rather thin and there are a significant number of young people who are definitely more vulnerable (for example my son has cardiac issues that are complex and ongoing and has needed ventilation on several occasion for ‘common cold’ complications). However, they may also be very difficult to manage at home for prolonged periods of time, and that’s where the difficulty comes in. I’m having to be pragmatic, I go out with my son once a day for some exercise, avoiding others as much as possible, otherwise he would climb the walls and home would be one extremely difficult for me and his 2 siblings. Offering to shop or collect prescriptions for families who have youngsters with SEND would be a lovely thing to do if you have neighbours in this situation 🙏🏼

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