MIAMI, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — One in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, how should parents of children with special needs talk to their kids about the coronavirus and staying safe?
Raquel Regalado is the mother of two autistic children including 16-year-old Bella. She said when the pandemic first hit, it was hard.
“There was a lot of anxiety, you know, and a lot of questions,” Regalado shared.
Regalado went back to basics creating a new routine for her kids.
Camila Rocha, the Education Services Director of Easterseals South Florida said, “I think the most important thing is that they tell the truth in a way that they’re going to understand.”
Parents of children with disabilities need to be honest when it comes to the coronavirus.
“There is a germ, there is a virus out there, that it’s dangerous to our health and we have to protect ourselves,” continued Rocha.
Giving kids with special needs a visual can help explain concepts like social distancing.
“Maybe draw a square that is six feet big and tell them this is your space, your personal space,” Rocha explained.
Rocha said it’s important to try and stick to a daily schedule.
“Try to make a routine that is not only easy for them to understand and follow but also to predict,” stated Rocha.
Regalado and her kids go for a long walk every day to get exercise and she and Bella started a butterfly garden in their backyard.
“The key thing is to stay consistent,” said Regalado.
And most importantly, have fun together.
Regalado plans activities a week ahead to make sure she has what she needs in place to keep her kids busy and active. Rocha said if you are struggling during these difficult times you’re not alone. There are resources out there that can help. The Children’s Trust offers free online resources for families. Log onto www.thechildrenstrust.org for more information.
Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; and Judy Reich, Videographer.
AUTISM AND COVID-19: TALKING TO YOUR KIDS
BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder is a difference in the way a kid’s brain develops. No one knows exactly what causes autism. A kid with autism might have trouble talking and learning the meaning of words; making friends or fitting in; dealing with changes (like trying new foods, having a substitute teacher, or having toys moved from their normal places); and dealing with loud noises, bright lights, or crowds. There is no cure for autism, but treatment can make a difference. It’s better to start treatment when the child is young. Doctors, therapists, and special education teachers can help kids with talking, playing, and educational learning, while therapists help kids learn about making friends, taking turns, and getting along.
COVID-19: HELPING KIDS WITH AUTISM: Adjusting to a new routine has been stressful for everyone during the COVID-19 pandemic, but especially for children with autism. These children have extreme difficulty with change. Kids with autism most likely do not know what is going on and might not be able to express their fears or frustrations. Therefore, it’s important for parents to talk with their child in a clear, direct, and honest way about coronavirus so it’s simple to understand. For example, “Coronavirus is a germ. It can make people very sick. We have to stay away from others right now to stay healthy.” It’s important to go over basic rules, such as: wash hands well and often (for at least 20 seconds); try not to touch your nose, mouth, and eyes; practice social distancing (keeping 6 feet away from others); and wear a cloth face covering/face mask in public places.
Be sure to give your child space and time for questions, but don’t offer more detail than your child asks for. Answer the question if your child brings one up, otherwise, don’t bring up the topic if it doesn’t come up.
WAYS TO HELP YOUR AUSTISTIC CHILD COPE: It’s recommended to stick to routines because they are comfortable for kids with autism. Things like regular bed and wake-up times, meal and snack times, screen time, chores, and other household routines. But, also build in new routines to include school work, breaks, and exercise. Using visual schedules and to-do lists can help kids know what to expect, while timers and 2-minute warnings can help with transitions. Kids with autism who feel frustrated, worried, or scared may have more repetitive behaviors (like hand flapping or rocking), tantrums, and other challenging behaviors. It’s important to find ways for your child to express feelings and help them work through strong emotions. You may try talking together, doing crafts, writing, playing, or acting out fears. For kids who are nonverbal, using augmented (or alternative) communication devices may be beneficial. You can also try calming activities, such as deep breathing, music, or watching a favorite video throughout the day. Exercise can also help ease anxious feelings. Your child’s health care provider, teacher, or behavior or learning specialist can offer more tips to help your child during this time. Talk to your provider if you notice changes in sleeping or eating habits, or if your child seems more worried or upset than usual. These may be signs of anxiety or depression.
* For More Information, Contact:
Roxanne Vogel, Easterseals South Florida PR
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