The COVID-19 pandemic caused many parents and children to quarantine themselves at home in order to cut the spread of the virus. Adapting to quarantine routines during the outbreak of COVID-19 is certainly not easy, especially for children with autism who often have difficulty coping with change. Parents’ roles are definitely getting more and more important in this case. We need to help children with autism to overcome this COVID-19 quarantine until they can get back to their normal routines again.
During the uncertain quarantine period as now, children with autism are most at risk of experiencing stress and anxiety due to COVID-19. Parents play an important role in conveying the right information and the steps they can take to help prevent the spread of disease.
Also read: ADHD versus Autism
Tips for parents during COVID-19 quarantine
You can help your beloved child deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in a way that is easier to understand, for example as follows:
1. Explain the situation about COVID-19 by telling a story
Information about COVID-19 is full of complicated terms. Even though the child understands, the information that comes in repeatedly can make him confused. Make this information simpler by telling stories to children through social stories.
Social stories teach children with autism about a situation and what they should do in the situation. This story is usually also accompanied by pictures so that children more easily imagine and understand them.
- What is coronavirus and its effects on the body?
- Washing hands and maintaining health
- What is quarantine and physical or social distancing?
- The new routine at home during the quarantine
2. Arrange a new schedule of activities
The activity schedule will help children with autism adapt to new routines during the COVID-19 quarantine. Routines are also important so that parents can still give rewards to children after they do their activities well.
You can create a new schedule of activities or arrange them based on a schedule that has been created by the therapist. As an illustration, the following schedule of quarantine activities that you can adjust to the needs of your beloved child:
7:30 a.m.: Get up early, have breakfast, take a shower, and get dressed
8:30 a.m.: Online school follows the schedule given
10:30 a.m.: Take a break while moving, walking, or stretching
Noon: Lunch (take the children to do it together with the family if possible)
1:30 p.m.: Online classes are over, children can play with their toys, read their favorite books, or chat with their friends online
3:00 p.m.: Mild exercise by walking or dancing (make it as fun as possible)
4:00 p.m.: Free time, but not for playing with gadgets mobile phone, iPad or watching TV (encourage them to do their hobbies: drawing, painting, reading, etc).
7:00 p.m: Dinner together
7:30 p.m.: Free time, children can play cellphones, watch TV, and others
9:30 p.m.: Get ready for bed
Note: This activity schedule is just an example. You can always modify it and adjust it based on your child’s needs.
3. Provide an environment that supports children
The environment also plays a role when children with autism undergo COVID-19 quarantine. For example, you can help your child stay independent by placing objects that he often uses in places that are easily accessible.
Even if the child does not go anywhere during quarantine, let him keep his stationery and books in the bag. Or, if he really likes sensory toys that stimulate his senses, let him play in the same special place.
In this way, you help your child stay active and independent even if he doesn’t leave the house. On the other hand, you can also guarantee the child’s personal hygiene and objects that he touches frequently.
4. Limit the use of gadgets
Gadgets do provide resources that help parents in caring for children with autism. However, this tool can also seize the attention of children so that it inhibits routine. This is why parents need to wisely limit their use.
Quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic did make children with autism easily bored. However, don’t just rely on gadgets. Try using other media such as toys, drawing tools, musical instruments, and so on.
Limiting the gadget will also protect your baby from news related to COVID-19 which causes fear and anxiety. So, make sure children only use gadgets during the free time that has been determined.
5. Stay in touch with therapists and fellow parents
Although autism therapy cannot be done directly, you still need to consult a therapist to monitor the child’s development. The consultation also helps you and your child adapt to the new home environment and routine.
If necessary, also take advantage of the surrounding network. Try asking your fellow parents to find out what adjustments they make at home. You can also share suggestions for overcoming obstacles during the quarantine.
6. Manage the stress that you experience
Changes in routine, work, and children’s needs can certainly cause stress and anxiety. Stress and negative emotions can gradually accumulate, making it more difficult for you to say something to your child.
You also need to manage the stress that arises during this period. Try to make time for yourself for a moment, whether to rest or do things that you like. In addition, you can also consult with a psychologist if needed.
Caring for children with autism amid quarantine and the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge in itself. You need to make a new routine, be more patient in explaining new things to your child, and keep managing stress during this time.
A few simple adjustments above might make your days and your baby easier. Thus, you can also maintain personal hygiene and make efforts to prevent COVID-19.
Stay safe, happy, and healthy!
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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