Autism Awareness Month Week 4: Autism Child's Routine Is Disrupted by the Coronavirus


If you are blessed to be a parent of a child on the spectrum you know that any change in their routine could cause a huge ripple effect through your daily regime and life as you know it. The change in their daily routine, due to the necessary changes society has had to make in the past few weeks, may upset your child. Believe it or not, this is a good learning tool for both of you. Transitions can be very difficult and scary for many kids on the spectrum as well as for us parents. You may face some resistance, fear, anger, resentment and frustration from your child. So, let’s use this time to learn how to help your child move through these transitions with grace and bravery as well as setting yourself up for success as a parent, role model and work from home guru.

How can we, parents, help our child with this new transition and change so that we all keep our sanity and move smoothly into the next few weeks of quarantine, especially if you also have to work from home? Here are a few ideas you can try in the next few days and weeks to help you keep it all together and still have some fun.

Tip #1: Keep your schedule. It may be easier to slip a little with the wake up times or bedtime routines, but I urge you to keep your consistent routines with your child. Keep your normal wake-up time and morning routine. If they are small, you could make it fun and tell them even though “school” is at home for a few weeks, let’s take a walk around the block to get to “school”. Have them dress in their coats, shoes and grab the backpacks to make it silly and fun. Not to mention, you get them outside and in the fresh air. Mimic your child’s school schedule as much as possible. Create a calendar you can post so they can see it and mark off the time for each activity they are doing for the day. Using a visual schedule with times, pictures or activities will help them know what is coming next. Don’t forget to put in some “downtime” too, for both of you. Stick to this routine as much as possible and reward them for doing such a good job with this transition. This will help them understand that transitions are not life ending, but just a little “blip” in their life that can be manageable and free of anxiety.

Tip #2: Keep it positive. As a parent of an autistic child this has been a great lesson for you. It was a superb lesson for me and still is even though my child is now 18. Stay open to your child’s level of difficulty with this change and transition. Embrace this extra time with your child and do things that are fun for your child and you can enjoy too. It is so easy to become overwhelmed since you are the parent, teacher, therapist and co-worker trying to make it all work. Make sure you have a set schedule for yourself that you can be a little flexible with. Find learning lessons that you and your child can do together. Play a board game, game of cards or read books together. Have them help you plan a meal every day. Not only will they love taking ownership of something, it could help them overcome their picky eating too. You could look at pictures in a cookbook or online for some yummy dishes and see which one they choose. Try and get as many of the ingredients as you can and have them help you make the meal. This will help boost their confidence and self-esteem as well as give you a bit of help in the kitchen.

Tip #3: Curb your anxiety. My son always could sense my anxiety and it would rev him up too. I learned a long time ago to curb my anxiety in any new situation and to take a moment to gather my thoughts and actions. This helped us be able to come up with solutions to situations and stay calm and collected in those times of transition. Take a moment and do some deep breathing. Inhale for a count of 4, hold that breath for a count of 2 and exhale for a count of 4. If your child sees you doing this, they will follow along and this is a great tool for them to use in school or in public if they feel anxiety creep in. Do some yoga or Pilates stretches. Take walks in the park and in nature and have your child tell you three things they hear; three red things they see; three things they can touch and three scents they can smell. Make a game out of it. You could call it the “Hide and Seek for your Senses” and when you or your child seem more anxious tell them it is time to play “Hide and Seek for your Senses”. Turn off the news and avoid discussing the virus situation in front of your children. Don’t share your fears with them. Journal about them or call one of your adult friends to discuss it out of ear range of your kids.

As humans we are creatures of habit and change is hard as we become so accustomed to our routine and thrive on the energy it creates in our day. I am sending you all waves of healthy vibes, patience galore and permission to be silly when need be in order to make it through these next few weeks.

Your children may respond differently to stress and trauma depending on their age. I am going to go over some reactions based on age group and how you can help them.



Learn more ways to help your family. Additional resources can be accessed at:

www.NCTSN.org

www.healthychildren.org

www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/children-faq.html

https://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/resources/fact-sheet/outbreak_factsheet_1.pdf

https://www.autismspeaks.org/covid-19-information-and-resources

https://nationalautismassociation.org/covid-19-resources-for-families/

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