The New ASD "At Home" World - 10 Ways to Cope with Changes During COVID-19 - Autism Awareness
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How to cope with disruptions for a child with autism during Covid-19, and hand washing tips

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 in 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.

Adorable little toddler girl with rainbow

Down the Free E-Book Life at Home During COVID-19

None of us were prepared for the rapid changes that took place with the closing of community classes and programs. This ebook is ideal for helping ease that transition into isolation at home.

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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  1. shannon Timlick says:

    Thank you, Maureen! As always your posts are timely, informative and so helpful for families! I have just uploaded your post onto our educational continuance page on our school division’s portal under Student Services and ASD. I know a lot of our teachers are working hard to find ways to support our students on the spectrum during these uncertain times. Thanks again!

    • Shannon, thank you for your kind words and support. I am living the reality of two autistic adults who are home with me full time with no activities, programs, work, or places to go. I appreciate you sharing the information because anything I am living and coping with will be written about and passed on to all of you to give guidance, suggestions and support. We are going day by day here, but I am starting to get a clearer vision of what needs to be done to keep my children’s mental health and well being optimal. This is quite a journey!

  2. This  blog is well worth reading and  full of  gems that all families can use . I am going to reference it on my face book page Penko& Associates . Thanks 

    • Maureen – so nice to hear from you and thank you for taking the time to write. I am in the thick of it here with both of my children home with me full time. I am living what I write about.

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