Social Distancing Challenges: Tips to Help Kids at School
The Understood Team
Social distancing at school is hard for many kids. But for kids who learn and think differently, following those rules may be even more difficult. Here are some reasons why, plus tips for helping.
Impulsivity and Social Distancing
Kids who are impulsive have a hard time putting on the brakes and thinking through their actions. If they’re excited to talk or play with other kids, they may get too close without realizing it.
Quick tip for families: Practice putting on the brakes by playing a version of “Red Light Green Light.” Put stuffed animals or other objects around the house. When your child starts getting close, call out “yellow light.” If they get closer than 6 feet, call out “red light.” You can also use these phrases in public so you’re not yelling “Stop!”
Quick tip for teachers: Agree on a verbal and a visual class signal for kids to use when others get too close to them. For example, the word might be “Halt!” and the signal is putting up a palm. Tell them everybody can use those signals when somebody gets too close to them.
Sensory Issues and Social Distancing
Sometimes, kids with sensory processing issues have trouble knowing where their body is in space. So, they can’t always tell how close they are to other people.
Quick tip for families: Use a measuring tape to show your child exactly how far 6 feet is. If you have a locking measuring tape, lock it in place and let your child measure how many arm lengths and toe-to-heel footsteps that is. (You can also use a 6-foot piece of string.) Practice being “three arm lengths” or “eight footsteps” away from people.
Quick tip for teachers: Add tactile elements to the way-finding markers on your classroom and hallway floors. It can help kids feel with their feet when they’ve moved out of their space “bubble” and into someone else’s. This may mean using textured tape or adding nonslip shower strips or stickers to marked-off areas.
Trouble With Focus and Social Distancing
Kids who are easily distracted or who don’t pay attention may not realize they’ve moved too close to someone. They may not be aware of what’s going on around them and where other people are.
Quick tip for families: Agree on an easy reminder phrase, word, or sound you can use when your child gets too close to others. At home, you can practice visualizing the distance with a 6-foot piece of string. Hold one end and have your child hold the other end. Then back away until you’re 6 feet apart. You can make a game of it by first guessing how far 6 feet is, and then measuring to see how close your guesses are.
Quick tip for teachers: Agree on a simple phrase or word the class can use to let other kids know they’ve wandered too close. It’s a quick reminder and can ward off “distance shaming.”
Families and educators: Stay in contact about student challenges this year with our back-to-school update form.
Back-to-School Update: Tell Teachers How Your Child Is Doing