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How Do We Support People With Autism And Their Families During This Uncertain Time

With so many unpredictable things happening due to the coronavirus pandemic, people with autism often get confused by what’s happening around them. Why are they not allowed to go out? Why they need to stay 6 feet away from people?  Here are some tips you can use to explain to them what is going on and what to expect from day to day. This will help them to adjust and thrive during this uncertain time.

Discuss the change in routine.

  1. Explain to children about coronavirus in a way they can understand.

  2. Be clear and direct. For example, ’Coronavirus is a germ where you can get from people. It can make us very sick. But we can do things to get away from it.’ or ‘You will attend school from home and mummy may work from home as well.’

  3. Give them space and time to process and question.

  4. Do not offer too much information than the child asks for.

  5. Try not to comment on the situation negatively, it may worsen their anxiety for example, more and more people have died from coronavirus.

Adjust New Routines

  1. Regular bed and wake-up time

  2. Meal and snack times

  3. Schedule regular times for school-work, breaks and exercise

  4. Letting them make the decision by giving them a couple of options e.g. what to have for lunch

  5. Having a visual schedule or a to-do list can help them know what to expect in the day

Stay Calm

People with autism may display more repetitive behaviours e.g. hand flipping or head shaking or other challenging behaviours when they feel frustrated, anxious or worried. Here are some activities and tips you can do to reduce their anxiety.

  1. Talking to them

  2. Putting on music and sounds e.g. white noise

  3. Reading them a story

  4. Writing or drawing together

  5. Deep breathing

  6. Watching a favorite video

  7. Limiting the time they spend on social media or upsetting news about coronavirus

Wearing A Face Mask

Wearing a face mask can trigger anxiety for some autistic people with hypersensitivity because they find it difficult to tolerate the sense of touch and smell of a face mask. It’s important to note that autistic people are exempt from the rules of wearing a face covering in the enclosed places.

Here are some tips you can use:

  1. Practice wearing one before wearing one for real

  2. Find the most comfortable type of material e.g. cloth masks

  3. Spray the mask with a favorite scent

  4. Wear a face shield if they cannot tolerate a mask

  5. Carry ‘I Am Autistic’ card in case they cannot wear one or being challenged by other people

  6. Listen to favorite music or sounds to help reduce the anxiety