Supporting Children With Autism During the Coronavirus Outbreak
During this entire pandemic the world has seriously been shaken. Anxiety and stress are high for most people. However, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are particularly prone to distress in response to changes or disruptions in their typical routines.
- Continue routines such as hygiene, getting dressed and organizing materials needed for the day. This will maintain the practice of activities of daily living and provide cues for different parts of the day.
- Incorporate physical breaks, including fine/gross motor activities.
- Schedule in breaks for yourself. Taking care of a child 24/7 without the support of a community and school places even more responsibility on a parent. Try to schedule breaks during the day when your child’s schedule allows it
- Visual schedules. Work with what you have in your home to create a schedule that has a visual component (like pictures or drawings). Tape and Post-its on a wall work also well. The most important thing is to develop a clear structure and routine that the child understands. Put the schedule in an easy-to-access place and guide your child through it each day. Be realistic and patient. It will take some time for you and your child to get used to it. Go through it several times each morning and throughout the day and preview the next day.
- Try to create different activity zones. Set aside parts of the living space for academic activities, eating, recreation and sleep. If your child has strong tactile sensory interests, keep a few sensory toys that they can interact with in a specific area. This way, you can make sure that these toys are regularly sanitized, and you can teach your child what items they should and should not get sensory input from.
- Promote social communication and personal independence. Try to set up highly preferred activities in hard-to-reach places, in clear containers with labels that have words or pictures identifying what they are. This encourages children to intentionally communicate their wants. At the same time, if you want your child to continue practicing skills (for example, making their own lunch), increase easy access by leaving materials within easy reach or setting up clear labels and stations for them.
This is a learning process for everyone during this time. We all are faced with new challenges that we've never faced before. Staying home is the best thing that we can do right now and this allows us to be innovative and creative. Maybe during this pandemic, you'll grow in a way that you never thought was possible.
As the saying goes: Keep Calm & Carry On. All children need love during a time like this. Tell your children that you love them.