Supporting children, young adults, and adults with an autism spectrum disorder or ASD can be challenging for families and caregivers. This is especially true when events cause major upheavals to an individual’s schedule. Over the past number of months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of millions. Few have been left untouched or unaffected by the virus. For those with ASD, this disruption has been difficult to address because it has caused breaks not just in routine, but in treatment. Thus, it can be difficult to get back to regulating emotions during a pandemic. Fortunately, Ascend Autism offers services and treatments to help individuals, families, and caregivers get back on track.
Mental Health During the Pandemic
Everyone, whether or not they have ASD, needs to prioritize their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. There have been significant upheavals in working, attending school, and interacting with others, even our closest friends and family. It puts a very real strain on our emotions and coping mechanisms.
Individuals with ASD are confronting the same mental health challenges as everyone else and may need telehealth services for autism treatment. One way to help them regulate emotions during this pandemic is by learning to practice mindfulness. This is a technique that family members and caregivers can use to help them control their own emotions and responses so they can continue to be effective in helping those with ASD.
Mindfulness is a way to focus attention on a particular moment in the present. We tend to worry about things over which we have little to no control. Doing so increases anxiety and disrupts getting even the simplest things done. By focusing less on outside forces and events and more on what is happening in an individual’s thoughts and feelings at the moment, individuals can exert and take back control. It is a way to calm oneself but also focus on practical, pragmatic actions.
Individuals with ASD may respond best to mindfulness by appealing to their senses. Focus upon the colors of objects around them, have them close their eyes and identify the sounds they hear or have them engage with an object whose text appeals to them. These are also techniques from our autism treatment program for regulating emotions during a pandemic that caregivers can do alongside side individuals with ASD making it a shared practice.
It’s important that children with ASD be able to express their thoughts and emotions, especially during the trying times of this pandemic. One way to do so is by encouraging them to name their feelings. Giving a name to emotions helps identify that feeling for the future and allows children to exert control over their emotions. A way to encourage this in children with ASD is by modeling it. Family members and caregivers can express their feelings in a particular way as an example and show children how to do so about their emotions. Some examples of modeling or labeling feelings include saying:
- “You seem really frustrated that we cannot go to the store right now.”
- “I know you are really disappointed that we can’t go to the class we usually go to.”
- “You seem worried.”
Our parental services program encourages children to respond to these kinds of statements and to use them themselves as a means of regulating their emotions. Caregivers can also offer visual cues or supports like pictures on index cards to prompt the practice.
Learning how to regulate emotions properly and express oneself is a key goal in ASD treatment. During this pandemic, some may need added support to get through the challenges of social distancing, mask-wearing, and having to stay at home. For others, regulating emotions during a pandemic is difficult due to overwhelming feelings of anxiety. At Ascend Autism, we understand that individuals with ASD need unique support in coping, but family members and caregivers do as well.
We offer a complete range of therapeutic services to help children and families with ASD get the treatment necessary to achieve their goals. So reach out to us today at 877.323.8668 or fill out our convenient online form to learn more.