Supporting Employees with Special Needs Kids
September 20, 2023
SEB Marketing Team
Balancing work and life is a challenge we all face, but for parents caring for children with special needs, this juggling act can be particularly demanding. These employees often require more time for doctor and specialist appointments, as well as providing extra support at home. It is now estimated that autism in children can be as high as 1 in 36, which can cost a family at least $60,000 more per year throughout childhood. This financial burden includes specialist fees and lost wages due to parents’ increased caregiving responsibilities.
In addition to these financial pressures, parents of children with special needs also experience higher levels of stress, which can affect their productivity at work. It is in this context that employers can step in to provide crucial support for these caregivers and their families, thus benefiting both the individual and the organization.
Here are some strategies that employers can adopt to ease the burden on parents of children with special needs:
Flexible Work Hours – Having a child with special needs might mean specialist appointments, picking up children from school who have had melt downs, and handling tantrums. All can mean time away from work. Having a rigid and fixed work structure could possibly result in the loss of top talent who simply can’t navigate both demands. Flexible and hybrid schedules allow parents of children with special needs to facilitate school meetings and appointments without adding extra stress to their performance at work.
Remote Work Opportunities –While flexible hours are helpful, remote work might be an even bigger game changer especially for parents of children with special needs. Consider allowing remote work options, enabling them to balance their work and caregiving responsibilities more effectively.
Creating a Safe Space at the Workplace – Employers should understand that employees are people first. Parents of children with special needs often grapple with feelings of inadequacy in various aspects of their lives. Having management that recognizes this and fosters an open, supportive environment is invaluable. Open-door policies and strict confidentiality with support can boost morale and maintain productivity.
Providing Flexible Benefit Options – The costs of supporting a child with special needs can be high and often require specialized services such as applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy which is helpful for children with autism. A robust benefits plan can provide much-needed relief. Consider offering a healthcare spending account (HCSA) that may cover medical expenses that are not covered under a provincial plan such as special equipment for children with special needs.
Access to High Quality Programs – Parents of children with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other needs often lack the knowledge and skills to effectively manage their children’s requirements. Providing access to educational videos, training sessions, coaching, and referral services can empower employees and lead to increased loyalty and engagement at work.
Community and Peer Support – Encourage employees to connect with support groups or communities for parents of children with special needs. These networks can provide valuable insights, emotional support, and a sense of belonging.
Parents of children with special needs often embody some of the most resilient, hardworking, and motivated employees. The challenges they face hone their skills in navigating complex systems, asking insightful questions, and maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity. By taking proactive steps, employers can create a workplace where parents of children with special needs feel understood, valued, and supported. It’s not just a matter of policy; it’s about fostering a culture of empathy and community that benefits everyone in the organization.