Due to COVID-19 many of our routines have been interrupted. While it’s frustrating and anxiety provoking for neurotypical individuals, it’s even more challenging for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Many children with ASD have difficulty making sense of everyday movements, sounds, and actions. Routine creates order in their lives. Gradually, children with ASD learn what to expect and when to expect it, creating a safe and secure environment in which life is predictable. In addition, children with ASD tend to like repetitive actions, so routine feels natural to them. Routine is also know to relieve stress for most individuals, neurotypical or not. Once there is stress relief, it’s easier to help a child learn new things. It is important to note however, not all changes are equal and not all children with ASD react the same way.
To help a child with ASD through change, communication is key. Communicating change before it happens helps the child prepare to handle it. However, this isn’t always possible as with the COVID-19 crisis.
The Autism Society recognizes the ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19 and the added challenges it brings to the autism community. They have provided relevant and reputable resources and information to provide support during the pandemic. They have launched a comprehensive toolkit on their website that provides COVID-19 information and resources by topic. Some of our favorite resources from the toolkit are listed below:
The sudden change to telework and virtual learning has required many of us to make sudden changes to our daily routines. The Autism Society provides resources for modifying routines to help families adapt to these changes.
Social Stories were developed to help children learn how to behave in certain social settings by pointing out details about the setting and what typically occurs in that setting. These details can help children pick up on cues they normally wouldn’t notice. Research has shown positive effects on the behavior of children with ASD. Below are links to social stories that help explain changes to routines and/or social situations:
- What is the Coronavirus?
- Social stories and comic strip conversations
- My Schedule will Change Social Narrative
- My Parents and I Are Working from Home
- Parent working at home Visual
Some other things you can do to help your child adjust to schedule changes include allotting extra time in your schedule to accommodate changes, use time tables, clocks, and visual schedules to explain what changes will occur, make small changes as an initial change, reward flexibility, and create a calm down routine. Free visual schedules such as the one below can be found here. In addition, this article provides 7 strategies to support individuals with ASD through uncertain times.
The Autism Society also provides learning materials to help your child adapt to home school. If remote learning is unavailable, this website provides resources for homeschooling to help maintain a structured environment. Below are links to social stories that can help children adapt to changes in education:
- Free Printable About School Closures
- Why Can’t I Go to School Social Narrative
- Doing My School Work Online at Home for Elearning Days
- Having Problems with Internet at Home for Elearning Days
- My Work Choice Board
- I Miss My Friends at School Social Narrative
Lastly, the Autism Society launched a Facebook Live series to provide relevant COVID-19 information for the autism community. This weekly broadcast features experts discussing specific topics such as mental health, federal emergency funding, and continuing education at home.
How can we help?
Worldwide Speech offers online special education, reading intervention, speech therapy, and occupational therapy services. We would be happy to help develop a curriculum and work with your child during their time away from school. Head over to our website to schedule a free consultation today!