Stay-at-home orders and social distancing practices arising from the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted us all. However, for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their family, and caregivers, the pandemic has created numerous challenges. It’s important during this ongoing crisis that we all come together to establish ways of dealing with these challenges. Also, we must adjust existing autism therapy programs to fit the “new normal” we are all experiencing. Ascend Autism can guide children, parents and caregivers through this period by establishing a revised program to continue autism therapy in the context of the limitations and barriers imposed by COVID-19.
Autism Therapy During Pandemic
Individuals with ASD, and especially children, embrace routine. COVID-19 has drastically altered the comforting routines many children with autism have established or learned through treatment. Thus, new routines and habits need to be established and supported by parents and caregivers. While it can be difficult, it is just as important for children with ASD to learn and follow the same practices we all must follow during this pandemic. One of the best ways to do this is by turning these new rules into games.
Hand washing for at least 20 seconds can be done as a sort of race you participate in with the child. Similarly, by providing children with rewards for avoiding touching their nose, mouth, or eyes, this can establish a new and healthy habit. Social distancing isn’t just a challenge for children but adults too. By marking areas with easy to use painter’s tape (which is available in numerous colors), establishing where children can stand, sit, or have an area to themselves can make social distancing more obvious as well as fun.
Perhaps the biggest challenge may be getting children with Autism to wear face coverings in public. One way to do this is to give children masks with fun designs and pictures of their favorite cartoon characters. When you go out, parents and caregivers should have a choice of masks with them in case a child decides they no longer want to wear the mask they have.
It won’t be easy, but families and caregivers of those with ASD understand there is always a solution to new challenges. Additionally, Ascend Autism is a resource for your child and family to support you with addressing these new challenges as well. Our one-on-one autism therapy can be delivered safely in-home as well as remotely through telehealth and will address specific behaviors including social skills as well as offer parent training. This is an excellent way to establish or re-establish treatment and support during the pandemic.
Re-Establishing Routines During COVID-19
Routines comfort children with autism. Thus, even though COVID-19 has disrupted things, it’s vital to establish or re-established routines. Sticking to a schedule allows stubbornness and aggression to be gradually minimized until the new schedule is the norm. Caregivers can minimize the impact of changes to routine and schedules by:
- waking up and going to bed at the same time
- doing school and work activities during weekdays
- blocking out time for breaks, snacks, and screen time
- cooking and eating meals at consistent times
- scheduling social activities, such as video chats and phone calls with friends and other family members, on the weekend
By setting and sticking to a regular schedule for both a child with autism and the rest of the family, parents and caregivers establish a foundation to slowly adjust to their new routine.
Continued Progress During COVID-19
Children with ASD respond best to routine. Uncertainty and restrictions can hold them back. Unfortunately, those qualities are exactly what the coronavirus pandemic has created in many households. The key for parents and caregivers is to find innovative ways to keep individuals on track in their development. Maintaining the appropriate progress requires adjustments to a routine during COVID-19. However, it’s best to think of these adjustments as the new normal, the new routine. It may be difficult at first, but with the right support that Ascend Autism can provide, individuals and families can continue making positive progress.
While many families could get regular in-home, in-person care or support through the public education system, COVID-19 has complicated things. In-person care may not be an option for some families, yet they still need support to maintain their ABA regime. To assist, the counselors and therapists at Ascend Autism can provide ABA services to families through our telehealth services.
Using internet video conferencing or streaming services through a client’s smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, we provide ABA support at a distance. All clients need is a reliable internet connection (we recommend a strong wi-fi connection), a dedicated space where sessions can be conducted without distraction, and access to materials for notetaking and other items for treatment (which can be pre-determined and organized ahead of a session).
In this way, children with ASD can get the applied behavioral analysis treatment they need to continue making sustained and healthy progress even in the midst of the pandemic.
Other Ways to Learn During COVID-19
Disruptions can be a major hurdle for both children with ASD and their parents. Without school support or clear, structured time, continuing progress during COVID is a challenge. However, there are some ways parents, family members, and caregivers can work to minimize disruption and keep learning during COVID on track.
For example, parents should do their utmost to:
- Keep a schedule. Old routines may be over, but new ones can be created to take their place. Make sure there is still a sense of beginning, middle, and end to a child’s day and schedule time appropriately.
- Structure is necessary, but so are breaks. Make time for play and relaxation. It will not only benefit children with ASD but give parents and caregivers the time necessary to recharge their batteries.
- Pick your battles. There will always be good days and bad days. While creating a routine can be difficult, make sure to be flexible. Everyone is enduring a difficult time emotionally and mentally, so patience is more important than ever before.
Our Autism Therapy Program at Ascend Autism
COVID-19 is a challenge for everyone. However, it can be overcome and managed when we all come together. At Ascend Autism, we understand the pandemic has had an meaningful impact on individuals with ASD, their families, and caregivers.
Ascend Autism has the programs and expertise to guide parents and caregivers in the most effective ways to support children with ASD. We offer an array of services for treating autism spectrum disorder and are committed to help children and families succeed. All interventions or therapies utilized by Ascend Autism are tailored specifically to each individual but are also fully comprehensive in order to address and promote the core functional capabilities of:
- Social Skills
- Daily Living Skills
- Adaptive Behaviors (aka Age-Appropriate Behavior)
At Ascend Autism, we make the science of behavior improvement look like a child at play!
Reach out to us at 877.323.8668 to learn more.