While children with disabilities are not at greater risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, they are likely to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although it's impossible to predict the unequal long term impact of social distancing and remote learning on South African learners, 2020 has shone a spotlight on the intricacies involved in educating children with special needs like autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and other learning, hearing and visual impairments.
This is according to Karabo Ramookho, Strategic Retail Marketing Manager at
Old Mutual, who says that every child deserves the opportunity to develop to their maximum potential regardless of the short and long term impact of the pandemic.
"The second wave gripping the country has increased the disruption of education generally, and specifically the education of children with special needs," says Ramookho.
Speaking about the school closures during the 2020 national lockdown, in an article published by the University of Cape Town, Associate Professor Judith McKenzie, head of the Division of Disability Studies, said parents of disabled children were under increased pressure.
"Parents and families are expected to play an active role by monitoring their child's learning, setting up homeschool programmes and even teaching content.
"While many resources are now available in the form of guides, YouTube channels and websites, there is very little support to parents and families who have the task of homeschooling children with disabilities," the article reads.
Remote learning and the advancement in technology to assist people with disabilities holds immense promise, and the past few years, in particular, have seen exciting innovations added to the development pipeline.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that differently-abled children cannot rely on technology alone and require much more intensive specialised one-on-one support. "Naturally, this additional assistance, technology and the technical skills required to use it effectively, along with hiring specialist teachers comes at a higher cost," says Ramookho, whose child has a hearing impairment.
“You don’t usually consider scenarios until they are close to home. With my son, we’ve had to rethink the support needed to cater for his special needs during lockdown when he couldn’t attend classes. Seeking advice from medical specialists is also an additional cost parents need to plan for,” adds Ramookho.
Many children who attend mainstream schools are required to pay for a personal class assistant as a condition of staying in mainstream classes. This and other costs for essentials such as on-going therapy, equipment, changing your home to accommodate your child’s needs are often costs that parents of disabled children need to plan and budget for.
Ramookho says that these complexities highlight the need for careful financial planning. " For new moms and dads, coming to terms with the diagnosis of a physical or intellectual disability can be overwhelming.
"Not only do you want to do everything in your power to help your child reach their full potential, but you also need to remain financially sound and consider what would happen if you're no longer in the picture."
By working with an accredited financial adviser, all these factors can be taken into consideration, including an analysis of specific needs, goals and context so that you can focus on what matters most – loving, supporting and preparing your child well for the future.
“While parents of children with disabilities may experience greater uncertainty and anxiety about their child’s future, there is also hope that future technological advancements will bring some relief. This prospect makes it even more crucial to have a sound financial plan in place so that you will be in a position to take advantage of these developments, which are generally not cheap,” says Ramookho.
“Remember there is some tax relief for taxpayers who have dependants with disabilities. You are entitled to claim certain qualifying medical expenses in the form of an additional medical expenses tax credit from SARS.
"The best time to start planning and saving is when your child is born. The second best time is today,” she concludes.
To give your child the gift that keeps on giving, a valuable education, visit https://www.oldmutual.co.za/personal/solutions/financial-coaching to get in touch with an accredited financial adviser.
The material is not intended as and does not constitute financial or any other advice.
The material does not take into account your personal financial circumstances. For this reason it is recommended that you speak to an accredited broker or financial adviser to consider all your options and draw up a plan to achieve your financial goals.
This post and content is sponsored, written and provided by Old Mutual.