Children with autism spectrum disorder usually thrive on predictability and routines. However, the pandemic has led to uncertainty and disruptions. And this is stressful not only to the child but also to the parent. Schedules have changed overnight. People aren’t socializing anymore. And specific professional therapies and supports have decreased since the coronavirus disease hit the world.
Today, parents with children with autism spectrum disorder are facing a lot of challenges. Parents may have started taking note of regression in meltdowns as children try to cope with the environmental changes and might not know how to share their frustrations. And this can be difficult for everyone. Most parents are doing their best to promote their children’s emotional health without the school day structure and usual support while managing their mental health issues. However, there is hope. Here are a few simple tips for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Talk about the pandemic – but keep the TV off
Even if your child is unable or hasn’t asked about it, they are likely to have questions about the dangerous virus. They likely have lots of conversations around the issue. You should give your child an opportunity to ask questions and use visual supports to explain the situation vividly and reinforce important messages like social distancing or handwashing techniques.
Medical practitioners recommend using short interesting stories to explain the condition that the world is facing. You can do this through videos, your drawings, or online pictures available on reputable resources like Autism Speaks and Zero to Thrive. You need to offer information about the dangerous virus and how they can protect themselves. Children with Autism spectrum disorder may grasp information through pictures and videos easily.
You should also minimize exposure to radio and television news. Having the radio or television on all the time might make the subject stressful, overwhelming, and confusing. Stop your children from looking up the virus on online sites where they are likely to be misled.
- Look for ways to socialize
Children with autism spectrum disorder may have a hard time socializing and interacting. However, this does not mean that they are okay with the loss of social outlets like outdoor activities and school. Face-to-face interactions provide children with opportunities to develop and improve their social skills. The majority of children with autism spectrum disorder enjoy socializing and are always looking for opportunities to do the same.
Parents should actively look for ways to virtually connect their children with friends, classmates, and relatives through different virtual platforms. Keep in mind that children with autism spectrum disorder need to contact their therapists and teachers not just for treatment but also to build social connections.
Looking after children with autism requires a wide support network and a team approach. Teachers, interventionists, and aides need to serve different roles in the lives of children such as support, education, and treatment. Think of ways you can establish contact with them even if it’s not in the therapeutic or academic context. A simple check-in can do wonders.
Communicating regularly even if it’s casual can help in preventing social anxiety when normalcy returns. Some children can also be disappointed about the cancellations of planned activities. You can create a poster that lists activities that you are considering rescheduling so that they know you won’t forget. Virtual tours to the local museum or zoo can be immensely beneficial.
- Intentional screen time is key
Experts have taken note that parents have relaxed screen time rules because children are relying on devices to learn remotely. However, for children who have ADHD, autism, or sensory issues, too much screen time can lead to hyperactivity, irritability, and disruption of sleeping patterns. For children with autism spectrum disorder, electronics are great tools for connecting and engaging with others.
However, there is a risk that lots of screen time can lead to challenging behaviors. Being intentional about how your children are using technological devices is key. You need to establish designated spaces and times. Clarify the time that children should spend connecting with their peers or working on school projects. Limit the amount of free time because children with ASD usually struggle with putting devices away.
Also, remember to spend enough time outside too. Parents working from home spend most of their time staring at screens. Therefore, you should allocate a few minutes or hours away from screens to spend time with your children. During the break, you can interact using toys, play games that promote development, or talk over a meal.
- Make the most out of the treatment opportunities available
Most medical appointments and interventions might not be available in the usual format due to the restrictions that have been imposed by governments and health bodies. However, several providers including speech pathologists, medical professionals, and behavior therapists have started providing video visits and a wide range of e-services.
You need to communicate with your providers to figure out what you are eligible for. Most therapists have shifted by focusing on the parent training model to ensure that parents have the tools to manage interventions during the pandemic. However, some children may have more behavior dysregulation. In such a case, parents should communicate with their providers to figure out if they qualify for the services available. Exploring a wide range of opportunities will help in maintaining the skills that your children have gained through treatments and interventions.
Parents need to stay connected whether their children are fine or not. The pandemic has presented parents opportunities to explore different goals with their children such as cooking or drawing together. Children can also practice writing by sending letters to loved ones or drawing pictures. Most parents have been busy with therapy and treatment that they rarely have time to promote activities that improve daily living.
Juggling the needs of children with autism and the demands of household management can be challenging. You shouldn’t forget about yourself. Engaging in activities that will motivate and energize you will pay off in spades in the long run.
Thomas Lanigan has work experience for 4 years as a marketing specialist, social media manager, writer, journalist, and editor at best essay writing, https://www.dissertation-service.org/ and Essaygeeks. Also, he is a professional content writer in such topics as blogging, marketing features, progressive education programs, business.