Coronavirus and Autism

As a mama and an educator, the thought of so many precious families and children being affected by another stressful event is heartbreaking and scary. Wherever you are in the world, action conquers fear, which is why I hope you will consider implementing some of these strategies in your home.

Let’s face it, our lives might drastically change in the upcoming weeks (if they haven’t already). Between the possibility of schools canceling (if your school hasn’t closed already), local businesses being shut down, not being able to work, and fun activities halting to a stop, our lives as parents are about to get a heck of a lot more complicated and stressful.

What are we going to do all day if we are homebound for TWO WEEKS with our children?

How are we going to explain this to kids so that they are not terrified, yet properly prepared?

Here are some things you can do to help prepare your child for a possible homebound quarantine.

  1. We already know the importance of hand washing. Encourage your child to sing the ABC Song or slowly count to 20 as he is washing his hands. Create a visual tool so that he knows step-by-step what he needs to do to successfully wash his hands.
  2. Consistently model, role-play, and practice sneezing and coughing in your arm, so that your child fully understands how to do this. Use a visual tool for this skill too. You can write out the steps, or take photographs and print them out.
  3. Use a visual schedule to help your child understand expectations and schedule changes.
  4. Stay calm. Your child is feeding off of your energy.
  5. Starting RIGHT NOW, use the word “change” every day. Prepare your child for the unknown by planning unpredictable events in his schedule. For example, write the word, “CHANGE,” in his daily routine, or use a symbol that represents a surprise. As you have most likely already experienced, the unknown can be super overwhelming and stressful for your child with autism (actually, it is incredibly stressful for all of us right now). By teaching him ahead of time how to handle a change in his routine, you are setting him up for success. When it comes to the Coronavirus, if your child has to stay home from school, you can explain it like, “There has been a major change. We have to stay home, because there is a virus going around school. We need to keep you safe. ALL of the children and teachers are also at home. School is closed.”
  6. Because your child might be seeing masks all over the news, and maybe in stores around town, you may want to prepare him for this so he feels more comfortable. You can role play, model, and explain why it’s important that some people wear masks. You can even have him practice putting a mask on a stuffed animal.
  7. As soon as you know when school is opening back up, create a countdown calendar, so that your child can see when he is going back to school. Help him understand what is going on so that he can feel calmer.
  8. Have activities planned out for two weeks. If you do have to stay home, a routine is so very important. From day one, have a set plan in place so that your child knows what to expect. Of course, include this routine in his daily visual schedule. For example: Bathroom, Wash Hands, Breakfast, Puzzles, Tracing/Writing Work, Dancing/Movement, Reading, Wash Hands, Snack…
  9. Set up an independent area so that your child can successfully complete tasks, and you can have a moment of Zen. Include activities that your child enjoys and already knows how to do.
  10. While the world is frantically buying toilet paper, go ahead and buy some fun art projects, ingredients to bake with, bathtub toys, a mini-trampoline, sensory toys, crayons, play-doh, books, and a good ole huge cardboard box (for imaginative play).
  11. You’ve got this. Breathe. Take a moment for yourself.

From my family to yours, I hope you and your community stay healthy (or get better soon).

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