People around the world are doing their part to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. For many of us, that means practicing social distancing and voluntarily self-isolating at home. For others, it might mean taking more drastic actions, like home-schooling and mandatory quarantines.
These measures, while vitally important, can prove difficult for any family, but for parents of children with autism, the challenges may be amplified. Here, we share some helpful tips and resources for parents who are at home with a child with autism during these trying times.
Tip 1: Start a conversation—now. You’ll want to talk to your child about the coronavirus before they hear about it elsewhere. As with any conversation related to a frightening event, it’s important to present the facts clearly and simply, communicate in a way that your child prefers, and to focus on the positive.
Tip 2: Prepare for changes to your routine. Changing routines isn’t easy for most kids, but for children with autism, it almost always presents a huge challenge. As we navigate life during the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to routines aren’t just possible, they’re very likely. Prepare your child for the changes they’re likely to face as best you can, introduce changes to routine slowly, if possible, and be on the lookout for signs of distress when changes do arise.
Tip 3: Offer opportunities for expression. Adjusting to the changes necessitated by COVID-19 will likely be difficult for a child with autism. Caregivers can help them navigate this challenging time by providing multiple opportunities (in multiple ways) for expressing their feelings.
Tip 4: Attend virtual events related to autism and COVID-19. Practicing social distancing doesn’t mean you have to cut yourself off from communities and support systems entirely. There are lots of virtual events tailored to families of children with autism, including many related directly to COVID-19. Autism Speaks’ list of virtual events is a great place to start.
Additional resources for parents of children with autism during the COVID-19 pandemic: Lifestyle Supports: The Autism Society’s guide to the financial support available during COVID-19. Congressional Priorities: Autism Speaks’ guide to the legislative priorities for the autism community during COVID-19. Educational Resources: The Autism Society’s education resources for families of children with autism during COVID-19. Coping with Change: Autism Speaks’ Challenging Behaviors Toolkit is a great resource if your child struggles with changes to their routine during COVID-19.