COVID-19 disruptions: Helping kids with autism cope
4/20/2020 by Dr. Jessica Davis
Children with autism thrive when their lives have structure, they're able to follow a familiar routine, and they know what to expect. COVID-19 has disrupted all of that. Not only are the schools and centers where they receive services closed, but their home routines are topsy-turvy. While some children are going to adapt fairly easily, here are some ideas for helping kids with autism manage their new normal:
- Write out a schedule and go over it with your child.
- Keep wake-up and bedtime at the same time. Follow the routines for getting up and going to bed that you've already established.
- Serve meals at regular times.
- Set aside blocks for school.
- Be sure to include plenty of outdoor, active time.
- Create a social story about what their day is going to look like. Use pictures and simple language to help your child "see" their new routine.
- If your child receives services or therapy at a center, check if they'll be offering virtual sessions.
The Autism Speaks COVID-19 Information and Resources website has more useful tips, including:
- School closures and disruption of school-based services
- Coping with disrupted routines
- Continuing clinical care during social distancing and school/program closures
- Flu teaching story
These resources can apply to adults with autism, too, since their routines are being disrupted as well.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, at Primary Care in Rochester/Kasson we're continuing to see our current patients with autism via phone and videoconferencing. Wherever you receive care, be sure to stay in touch with your child's health care and other providers. Together, we can help children manage through this challenging time.
Other news about autism
April is Autism Awareness/Acceptance month! While the Minnesota Autism Conference is being rescheduled for the fall, there are two other exciting developments:
- National Autism CARES Act. Signed in September 2019, the act expands financial support for research, services and training for individuals and organizations who care for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This increased funding also focuses on lifelong services for those with autism.
- New report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Identification, Evaluation and Management of Children with Autism spectrum Disorder" is the first major update since 2007.
Dr. Jessica M. Davis is a pediatrician in Primary Care in Rochester/Kasson's Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM). She has a special interest in the care of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.