The Coronavirus and Helping Your Child with Autism Deal with the Change in Routine

autism child change in routine

Huge impact on our lives

The Coronavirus has had a major impact in lots of ways, not the least of which is trying to explain to our children with autism what’s going on, and helping them to adjust to the changes in the schedule, i.e. not going to school, being watched by grandma one day, and a sitter the next.

What to do?

In terms of explaining the ‘virus’; it would appear reasonable to explain that a strain of the “flu” is ‘going around’ and we’re taking precautions. In terms of providing reassurance, please see my prior post on the subject, and recognize that youths typically either don’t get the virus or experience a very mild reaction; so, that’s encouraging and worth noting to your kiddo.

So, you’re left to deal with the changes in routine.

You’ve been through this many times when there is a snow day or unexpected change in your schedule. This time, however, the change will continue a bit longer. This extra time gives you the opportunity to establish a new routine. The key is to prepare, to the extent possible, clear and specific schedules presented on a white-board or using a visual schedule for younger children. These schedules can be daily, or weekly; whatever you think is best.

Make if fun, provide extra comfort, and incorporate items from the daily routine

It would be understandable if you give extra hugs and reassurance, as well as some extra use of the iPad to help calm the emotions. You may feel like you’re over-indulging, but sometimes that’s necessary. Try to keep the routine consistent in terms of the same order as would occur on weekends and other days off. However, you may want to increase structure a bit compared to the weekend schedule (given the length of time of this hiatus) but, no worries, establish the routine in written or visual form, and have each caretaker carry-out the routine in a predictable fashion.

To prepare for the next day, you’ll have the schedule already prepared, and use face-time with grandma (or teacher, or babysitter…) telling your child how much fun they’re going to have, and the activities in which they will be involved. Use the written or visual schedule to prepare for transitions, and allow for extra time knowing that these transitions may be accompanied by some emotion and resistance. A sticker chart with extra rewards may be helpful in that respect.

Hope that helps

These are trying times, for you and your kids alike. As always, don’t hesitate to reach-out with any questions, and please share your success stories on my Facebook page. God bless.

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).