How To Explain Covid-19 To Children With Autism

Jochebed Isaacs, clinical psychologist and programme director at Early Autism Project (EAP), shares what parents of children with autism need to know.

Jochebed Isaacs, clinical psychologist and programme director at Early Autism Project (EAP)

There are a number of key areas that children with autism struggles with, which will make this current situation quite difficult for them. One of the challenges is inflexibility – meaning it can be difficult for them to cope with changes, or to tolerate not getting their way.

Furthermore, the difficulty with communication for many on the spectrum can make it difficult for a child with autism to understand why everyone is at home, and why they are not able to leave the home. Many children on the spectrum also have social challenges and may struggle with tolerating all family members (especially in communal homes) being together all the time, as well as potential noise levels with all siblings at home.

Image: Pexels

Then, let’s not forget that children with autism are usually in intensive therapy, and need services to help them learn and retain skills. They are, therefore, missing out on their learning. Although online therapy is an option for some, it just doesn’t work for many of our children, especially the younger ones and those more affected with autism. Online services will also require the child’s parents or nanny to be there supporting them.

Therefore, when a child with autism is not receiving services, not only are they not able to receive the therapy they need, but they will end up with a lot of unstructured and ‘free’ time which is not good for their overall progress.

1 of 2

Balancing work-from-home and an autistic child

Image: Early Autism Project

The above is a tentative schedule for parents with children who have autism. This includes having general up wake-up times, meal times, as well as sleep times – and then structuring free time in between these daily routines. This can include having play stations, facilitated learning/therapy with a parent, as well as a child’s preferred activities that are appropriate and hopefully not self-stimulatory.

It can be very difficult to manage working from home as well as a child with autism, so if it’s possible to request for some work flexibility, then parents can actually take turns to work. So one parent can take care of, and facilitate activities, for their child. Parents could also use the time their child naps or sleeps at night to quickly catch up on their work (if this is appropriate to the nature of their job) and of course, we do need to resort to screen time during this period.

1 of 2