The New ASD “At Home” World – 10 Ways to Cope with Changes During COVID-19
The recent events around COVID-19 have dramatically altered our world in a short period of time. Each new day is bringing different challenges, restrictions and uncertainties. For our autism community, these changes create a unique set of problems. Activities have stopped running, day programs are shut down, schools are closed, and at home support/respite staff are not working during this period. Many of us have lost our jobs and now face a precarious economic future. Businesses and services have closed or reduced their hours. The closing of libraries and recreation centers have been particularly hard to bear in our household. Food shortages and long lines to enter the grocery store a few at a time is now the norm.
With our children home with us 24/7 now, how do we keep things on an even keel amidst this chaos?
Keep Routines as Consistent as Possible for Those with Autism
Routines are the most important thing to keep going as they provide predictability which is turn lessens anxiety. Keep bedtime, bath time and mealtimes consistent. Get dressed every day. Make sure personal hygiene habits stay in place. It’s easy to let things slide – we had a bad week in this department but we’re back on track.
Make a Daily Visual Schedule
With no school or programs running, there are unavoidable schedule changes in the day. Make a daily schedule with some preferred activities on it. Limit screen time if you can. Schedule some family social time and play a cause and effect board game such as Kerplunk, Operation or Don’t Wake Daddy. Card games like Old Maid or Go Fish are fun too. Going for a ride in the car provides a change of scene.
Listen to Calming Music
Classical music in particular is very calming. Have it playing in the background. Mozart, Beethoven Piano Sonatas, string quartet music, Chopin Ballades are nice choices. My husband is a professional pianist so he plays a concert every day for about two hours. Our son just lights up and the music changes the atmosphere of the house.
Get Plenty Of Exercise – Including Fresh Air
Making time to exercise is a must because it lowers anxiety, helps with sleep, and supports regulation. Go for a walk outdoors for fresh air but if the weather doesn’t permit, try using a mini trampoline or doing yoga. Develop a simple exercise routine that can be done for 20 minutes a day. Vary the activities if you can.
FaceTime or Skype with Family and Friends
Staying at home means not seeing family and friends. It helps to stay connected. My daughter likes being involved when I FaceTime my sister and seeing what her cat is doing. Connecting with a person visually gives assurance that they are well and can provide some outside interest.
Have Some Quiet Time
Block off some quiet time in the day for meditation, a 20 minute nap, quiet time alone in a bedroom, or for reading. Down time is important for relaxation and self-regulation. Being together all the time can be difficult so breaks are a must.
Expand on Interests
I have written a lot on the topic of expanding interests. Does your child like to cook? Try a new recipe. Does your child like to sort things? Do a pantry clean out to take stock of what you have and group the items into sections like canned veggies, baking items and spices.
Limit Demands and Changes
With so many changes that have happened it the past week, try to limit adding more new things. This may not be the week to learn a new skill. Allow time for adjustment to the new schedule changes. Try adding one new thing at a time, not several, and space it out. Pull back if you see anxiety building. Think about implementing Low Arousal Approaches at home.
Talk About COVID-19
Talk about what COVID-19 is to take the mystery out of it. Read a social story about it. The National Association for Autism has some excellent COVID-19 resources. Address questions and phobias about the virus. For example, my daughter was afraid that all cats would get sick.
Discuss other pandemics and diseases and how they were cured. This isn’t the first time in history that we’ve faced a pandemic. Vaccines were developed for polio, treatments are available for tuberculosis which was once a number one killer – these health crises passed. COVID-19 will end and researchers are working on a solution to this problem every day. It’s important to know that something is being done to help people and we will not be in this place forever.
Teaching Proper Hand Washing to Children with Autism
Learning how to wash your hands is an important skill to practice as it lessens the spread of this virus. Scrubbing is recommended for 20 seconds. Sing a song for 20 seconds to help with the timing of this or you can count if your child likes numbers. Click here for some good hand washing videos for kids and songs to sing while washing. More hand washing resources can be found here.
We have some difficult weeks ahead, but we will get through this trying time. The most important thing right now is keeping everyone safe and healthy. Take steps to remain so by staying at home, washing hands, and covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze. These are good habits to practice all the time, but we need to be more diligent than ever.
We are here – working from home – to answer any questions you may have during these trying times. We are also to processing book orders if you need any resources. We are all in this together.
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