Tips for parenting a child on the Autism Spectrum during Covid-19
We are all currently in a challenging time that has evoked a range of emotions. This time is particularly difficult for parents who are caring for a child on the Autism Spectrum.
As the pandemic brought sudden and significant changes there was not enough time to be able to develop coping strategies for ourselves and especially our children. This has caused a great amount of disruption in all areas of our lives including school, work, travel, expectations, social activities etc.
With all that is currently occurring it may not be a surprise to notice the increasing levels of behaviours, anxiety, disappointment, and frustration your child may be expressing. In addition, you are trying to manage your own anxieties and feelings regarding the COVID-19 situation and how this has impacted you and your family.
Change can have a large impact on someone who is on the Spectrum, regardless if it is a minor or major change, it causes significant distress to the child. While you may now be working from home, most if not all activities for your child have been put on hold, school is not continuing in its traditional way, therapies are either on hold or being carried out in alternative ways such as video or phone calls.
All of these have occurred in a very short space of time. This meant that there was no time to provide warnings and implement strategies that you would normally implement to prepare your child for change. What will assist your child during this time is for you to acknowledge your emotions and not to put any unnecessary pressure on yourself to keep it all together. It is important for you to keep calm and balanced as much as possible and be able to model to your child that it is ok to have difficult emotions during this time.
The following tips may be useful for your child while at home during Covid-19:
Put in limits on the exposure of news and information regarding Covid-19 You can model responsible information seeking to your child by limiting the time you watch the news in front of your child. It may be beneficial to limit screen time if your child is continuously looking up articles or watching news stories.
Advocate for a designated worry time This may seem a bit odd but try to allocate a time each day to allow your child to worry. Having this time set aside will allow your child to ask any questions/concerns/thoughts/worries they may currently be having in regard to Covid-19. When responding to your child during this worry time remain calm and reassure them while being honest. Listen to their concerns, validate them and take your child seriously. If your child keeps asking questions about Covid-19 outside of worry time gently remind them that this can be discussed during worry time.
Have house rules It may be beneficial to create rules for the home with you and your child, where the rules may be similar to the ones at school. Make sure that you get your child involved in creating the rules, so you are doing it together. What is important is that your child has a say on the rules. Write the rules down with your child, colour or draw on the sheet and place it somewhere in the house that is easy for everyone to see.
Create a daily schedule for your child. As their usual schedule is now disrupted when recreating the new daily schedule with your child try to keep some of their previous schedule the same e.g. morning and bedtime routines, diet and shows or movies they may watch. Sit with your child to develop the new schedule and make sure to review it often with them.
Put time limits on screen time As the normal routine and schedule is not currently occurring your child may want to now spend more time using their technology devices. Try to limit the amount of screen time by scheduling screen time into the new daily schedule.
Give your child choices on activities Your child may need your assistance with initiating games, play and activities. You can do this by planning with your child what they would like to do. You may need to give your child some ideas. Once your child decides what they would like to do (in some cases you may need to provide them with the activity) assist your child to collect the items needed and help them get started.
Include time for their special interest Allowing you child to spend time on their special interests is a great way to help them with their wellbeing. It also assists them in being able to comfort and sooth themselves.
I hope the above information and tips may be helpful during this time, and please recognise that you are doing the best you can. Also remember to be kind to yourself.