The New "Normal"- ASD in the Post COVID-19 World - Autism Awareness
Covid 19 new normal

The New “Normal”- ASD in the Post COVID-19 World

We are seeing out first glimmer of hope after weeks of bad and frightening news -the COVID-19 curve is flattening.  Our communities are going to reopen, albeit in stages and at different times and rates depending on regional data. It is exciting to be able to move about again, to have some shops open, and resume enjoyable activities. There are warnings, however, that things will not be back to normal. This leaves us with the big question – what is the new “normal”? What will life look like in different settings such as daycares, schools, universities, businesses,  grocery stores, recreational pursuits and cultural events? After two months of restrictions, how to we prepare the individuals we support with ASD navigate this new world?

Teaching New Rules To Those With ASD

The COVID-19 safety measures and protocols will differ from place to place. It is a good idea to call ahead to where you are going and ask what their expectations are. One little grocery shop I visit requires you to use hand sanitizer and shop with gloves. Whatever produce you touch, you must buy. My son’s specialist clinic has their door locked and you must wait outside until a nurse comes. She then takes your temperature, gives you a questionnaire, and then you may enter. Some stores will limit the amount of people in, ask that only 1 person do the shopping, some will continue with curbside pickup. By calling ahead and knowing what to do, there will be no surprises and that gives predictability.

There will also be people who disregard the rules and do what they like. My daughter will have big problems with this so I will have to tell her that some people will simply ignore the rules and we just have to stick with doing the right thing.

Sensory Issues and Safety Measures

Hand sanitizer, gloves and masks will more than likely continue to be safety protocols, particularly on public transit. If you have not been taking your child out during this period of isolation, start practicing using these items. Experiment with different types of  masks as they can be made from different materials. If using a special fabric with a favorite color or design on it will motivate the person to wear it, see about having some made or make them yourself. There are also ideas on how to make a face mask more comfortable.

Hand sanitizer feels cool, watery and slippery to the touch but it does evaporate quickly. Try getting used to using hand sanitizer at home before venturing out so that the feeling of using it is not a surprise. Frequent use is also drying to the hands so introduce moisturizer if necessary. Provide instruction with visuals on how and when to use hand sanitizer. The same goes for hand washing – instruct when and how to do proper hand washing.

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.

Social Distancing

Social distancing is likely to stay in place for some time. Review the 2 metre distancing rule and why this measure is still required. Here is a good social distancing social story presented in several languages. There are videos available as well.

If an individual has an aide or support worker to assist them, social distancing will not be possible. Explain the difference about this versus distancing from a friend or stranger in a store.

Fear of Getting the Virus

In some areas of the world, the peak of the virus has not hit yet. If numbers rise with these relaxation measures in place, this may cause worry and fear. Emphasize that you are practicing safety measures to do everything you can to stay well. Come up with a plan together to give a sense of control – i.e. we will only go out when we need to. We will stay away from crowded areas or activities.

We did our first bike ride of the season this weekend and our son Marc was not relaxed at all. He was very afraid of coronavirus being out there. He took a couple of his Thomas trains with him on the ride to calm himself and did very well. We explained that we would ride on quiet side streets and not visit any parks.

Relaxed Measures May Change

This is one of the big challenges with this pandemic – the rules and measures are constantly changing. You just get used to things, then they change again. Do your best to explain changes as they happen. There is also the possibility of society tightening up again if a second wave or outbreak occurs. One reason we’ve been able to deal with this is because we introduced the “surprise” activity on visual schedules when my children were younger. We’ve worked on flexibility over the years which helps in situations like these. The daily ups and downs of life with this virus will be with us for some time. Use the teachable moments when appropriate.

Back to School, Back to Work

When school or work resumes, there are likely to be changes in these environments. Ask ahead of time what these will be. I am seeing interesting pictures and articles on what school is looking like for those already back at it. In Denmark, some classes are being held outdoors. In Taiwan, the children have little yellow partitions around their desks.

There will also need to be protocols followed at school like no sharing of food at lunch. Recess may not be part of the day or physical education; however, movement breaks will still be important for self-regulation. Meet with your child’s teacher to ask how your child’s need will be accommodated under these new measures. Some parents don’t feel confident sending their children back to school and are worried for their safety. If you have concerns, discuss those with the school and let them know if your child will not be returning to school at this time for safety reasons.

My son is autoimmune compromised so we will have to carefully consider what his safe participation level may be as society opens up again. For now, his program classes are being offered online so he can join in safely. He is not volunteering in the community, but I believe it will be fine for my daughter to return to her cat charity position when it is safe to do so as very few people enter that facility. Every context will have to be evaluated.

We’re all anxious to get back to a normal life, but it will be some time before this can happen. Preparation, explanations, and planning will be key in easing the transition into this new “normal”. The most important thing is to stay healthy and safe and follow the recommended measures in order to do so.


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