COVID19 is stressful, scary, and disruptive for all of us. Children with autism may need additional support during this difficult time. Below are 5 ways to help your child, friend, sibling, niece, nephew, cousin, or acquaintance with autism during this uneasy time:
1. Talk about it: It is important to provide accurate and truthful information, while using direct and positive language. Pictures can be very handy when discussing what COVID19 is, how it can affect us, and what steps we can take to protect ourselves. Discuss the importance of handwashing, physical distancing, and the fact that we are uncertain when he or he will return to school. Try and limit the news, as this can increase anxiety levels.
2. Maintain a routine: Although our days are thrown off thanks to COVID19, it is imperative to maintain a schedule and stick with it. Create calendars, dry-erase daily agendas, video clips, chore charts etc. Don't forget to provide praise throughout the day, as this new at-home schedule may differ drastically from his or her previous schedule, prior to COVID19.
3. Coping: Build in breaks throughout the day in order to cope with this significant disruption. Be sure to choose activities that he or she likes including nature walks, meditation, bike riding, baking etc.
4. Physical distance, not social distance: Children with autism are more likely to suffer from social isolation during this time of uncertainty. Maintain relationships with friends, family members, teachers, and classmates through Skype, Zoom, FaceTime etc.
5. Stay positive: This time can be overwhelming for all of us. There are a lot of unknowns. Take care of yourself and your family!
So although there are not gatherings or walks this Autism Awareness Month because we are all physically distancing ourselves during this pandemic, it is essential to still acknowledge this important month. I ask that you take a minute and check in on that special someone that you know with autism, or consider donating to the Autism Society of America or Autism Speaks.
Until next time,