The number of those infected with the Coronavirus and deaths continue to rise. In the absence of a vaccine, specialists and the government encourages us to stay at home to keep us from being infected. The lockdown is stressful for everyone, but children with autism are very much affected by this sudden change.
Children with autism are comforted by accomplishing their daily routines, and not being able to do so could immensely affect their behavior and development.
The children’s condition makes it more difficult for them to understand the situation. Since they are used to routines, some may resist adapting to the new normal. What makes it worse is that schools, therapy centers, and other facilities that can help them are also closed for health precautions.
Now that we have the time to guide our children during the lockdown, let’s use it to help them cope with the situation. Here are some ways you could help your child adjust to the new normal.
Explain The Situation Through Simple Terms
You have a gifted child who can easily understand the situation if you explain it in simple terms. You do not have to be technical about the Coronavirus. A child can easily follow you if you provide examples coming from their past experiences.
You can say that the virus is something harmful that would make them ill. Mention the last time they were sick and how difficult that was for them. By doing so, they would have an idea of why you have to stay-at-home every day.
Please focus on the four things they have to remember to be safe during the pandemic: social distancing, frequent hand washing, wearing a mask, and avoiding touching their nose, mouth, and eyes. Aside from this necessary information, let them absorb the situation and wait if they have further questions. If they do not have more questions, it is time for you to check if they can apply what they learned.
Check Their Understanding Through Role Play
If you used a teaching method that your child has been used to, chances are they have absorbed the lesson. To check whether they have fully taken your lessons at heart, you can role-play the different situations to apply their learning.
You can pretend to shake your child’s hand and see if he or she would wash her hands properly, or you could ask him or her to gather his toys and place them at a safe distance from one another. Role-playing is also a good bonding activity.
A Period Of Adjustment
Children with autism function better when they follow a routine. Try to minimize the effect of the pandemic on their daily schedules. Wake them up at an hour that they used to and always give them meals and free time in the same hours.
Also, ensure that you provide them with a choice of what they want to do during their schooling hours so that they can still feel that they are in control. To manage their transition from one task to another, provide your child with visual schedules, timers, or cues.
Keep Your Children Calm
You can observe your child for any changes in their behavior. If they experience stress or fear, they will most likely have difficulty in expressing themselves. They may try to get your attention through tantrums or other challenging behavior. To avoid this, encourage your child to express their feelings through activities.
Examples Of Activities
There are different media through which children with autism could express themselves. Art and crafts are usually sufficient to calm them down. Choose positive sensory activities that you and your child can enjoy. Some examples are:
- Painting – if your child is up to it, allow them to create a mess while painting. You can try a different medium to paint like water balloons or even just their fingers.
- Polymer Clay – These are like ordinary clays, but it hardens when exposed to heat. You can mold your clay and turn them into cute accessories.
“Parents need to give themselves some grace. Do your best but do not expect to be able to do everything that your child’s teachers and therapists do as skillfully as they do it,” says Cathy Guttentag, P.h.D.
As parents, you want to create an environment of growth and development for your children. However, always be reminded that today’s pandemic brings unprecedented times. You do not have to be the perfect teacher or therapist for your child, but you can always try. Leave ample room for yourself to learn more about your child and yourself through the pandemic.