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Helping Children with Autism during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Tips for Parents

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for nearly every person around the globe ­­– our daily routines have transitioned dramatically and many of us are having to adjust our typical methods of working, going to school, and even shopping for groceries.

One thing we should be mindful of, however, is how this crisis might be affecting children, particularly those on the autism spectrum.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disorder that manifests in different ways, but most commonly by impaired social interaction, limited communication, behavioral challenges, and a limited range of hobbies and interests.

“The biggest thing parents are having to deal with right now is just an overall disruption,” says Marty Price, Behavioral Analytic Manager for Centerstone’s Autism Services: Think! Learn! Explore! (CASTLE). “Every child is unique, but children with autism tend to love structure and they generally thrive when their days stay close to the same as the day before, so a lot of kids are going to be thrown for a loop during this time.”

Some things you can do to help children with autism during this time include:

  1. Stick to a schedule: Disruptions in the daily schedule can be difficult for children with autism, so creating structure at home can make a huge difference. Try to schedule wake-up and bed times, meals, breaks, etc., at the same time each day.
  2. Simulate typical days within the home: Some children are still participating in at-home education, so making your home resemble the environment a child with autism is used to can help them feel more comfortable. For example, try to make your kitchen or living room look like a school room by setting up a desk, hanging up educational posters, or using a white board. You can also set up a “bell” to help your child(ren) transition from one period or task to another.
  3. Stick to the plan: If your child has a behavior intervention plan (BIP) or individualized education plan (IEP), be sure to pay attention to the programming and advice it contains. The tools and tips in these documents will likely be familiar to your child and may help you decide the best way to provide education and learning opportunities, as well as to overcome or prevent behavioral challenges.
  4. Don’t forget to play: Find time to take a break and to breathe! For some parents, breaks can be hard to come by, but it’s important to remember that self-care is critical. If you’re overwhelmed or stressed, your kids can pick up on that and feel worse. Scheduling some time in your day to take a quick walk or do a hobby, even for just a few minutes, can reduce stress and make you (and your children) feel better.
  5. Reach out for help: Centerstone is here for you now, just like always before. If you’re having a hard time coping with the ongoing challenges of the pandemic or need advice on how to help your family, we can help! Through this crisis, Centerstone remains fully operational and continuing to serve our clients and communities. We have implemented system-wide strategies that reduce the risk of exposure while preparing us to respond effectively in the event the current threat level escalates. To reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure at this time, almost all appointments are being conducted via telephone or telehealth (video). For more information, please call 1-877-HOPE123 (467-3123) or visit centerstone.org/connect-with-us/.

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