5 Top Ways to Help Autism Families Cope During COVID-19
Children with autism like routine and predictability, and so do their parents. With the abrupt change of school closing, both parents and children are having to adjust to staying at home.
This sudden change not only affects the children but parents as well. For parents, you have now had a week or two to adjust to this new normal of life with your children being at home for an indefinite amount of time. The stress and anxiety are now beginning to set in.
There are many ways to manage this stress and anxiety, so they don’t escalate. I have listed five helpful coping strategies that will help parents during this time of uncertainty.
1. Take A Break
Just like your children need breaks throughout their day, so do YOU! Every morning set alarms or reminders on your phone to take a break every few hours. While your child is enjoying his/her screen time or self-stimulatory behavior, you can enjoy that extra cup of coffee, sit outside, and just breathe or listen to your favorite song. There are many free “self-care” menus online that offer great suggestions for ways to take a break and regroup.
2. Positive Mindset
During this time, feelings of stress and anxiety are heightened. Remember, children with autism feel the non-verbal stressors of the world much more than you do. So it is extremely important to stay calm and have a positive mindset. I recommend getting notecards or stick notes, writing down positive statements, and putting them on the walls throughout your house.
They can be simple statements like, “Keep calm, breathe, you are doing great!” These positive statements not only help you but also help your child stay calm and positive. You may not have control over the outside world, but you do have control over your household and mindset.
3. Spring Clean Your Social Media
While on the topic of positivity, now it is time to spring clean your social media. People you are following on Facebook and/or Instagram who are posting content that is causing you anxiety, fear, or negativity, UNFOLLOW THEM! They are not serving a purpose in your life. Now is the time that you need to follow people and organizations that share helpful content, make you laugh, and bring joy into your life. It is the time to Marie Kondo your social media.
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4. Stay Connected
Now more than ever, it is essential to stay connected with family and friends. Family and friends are now just a Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime away. Schedule a happy hour with your friends or dance party playdates with your children. This is a safe and easy way to continue to stay social while practicing social distancing.
5. Fun Friday
Everyone enjoys a Fun Friday! With all the unpredictable day-to-day changes, it is time to create some predictability in your life. Fridays are consistent and are not going anywhere. Make Fridays a fun day in which you have a half-day of homeschool to have a movie day, make cookies or pizza, play games, etc. Choose activities that would be FUN for you and your family to do together. I promise it will give both you and your children something to look forward to every day.
With all the spur of the moment changes within our communities, it is hard to predict what tomorrow will bring. Your children depend on you as parents to provide some normalcy in their lives. However, it is just as important to take care of YOU during this time.
If it means that your child is having a little more screen time than usual or if he/she is engaging in more self-stim behavior, it is okay. You are human, and it is alright for you to take a breather. Remember, we are all in this together.
Dr. Annette Nuñez is the founder and director of Breakthrough Interventions, LLC and Breaking Through Autism. She is a licensed psychotherapist and has worked with children with ASD and other related disorders for over 22 years. As part of her doctorate work at the University of Denver, Dr. Nuñez developed the Children’s Social Competence Scale (CSCS). The CSCS is an early intervention evaluation tool that measures social competency in young children. She served as the Program Director for Connect Us, a non-profit organization that helps children cultivate positive relationships through facilitated play. Her research interests include the mainstreaming and socialization of children with High Functioning Autism. Dr. Nuñez co-wrote and self-published the Friendship Is… book. She conducts many seminars both nationally and internationally and has consulted with many schools in China and South Africa. Dr. Nuñez also consults and supervises the therapists at the Breakthrough Interventions site in South Africa. Dr. Nuñez has been featured in the Huffington Post, NPR, The Jenny McCarthy Show, and FOX News. . She currently hosts a podcast entitled “Behind the Breakthroughs,” where she shares advice and the breakthroughs of her clients. For additional information visit her Websites: www.btinterventions.com/, www.breakingthroughautism.com/ Facebook: www.facebook.com/breakingthroughautism/ and also her account on Instagram: www.instagram.com/breakthrough_autism/