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Education, Autism, and COVID-19

Updated: Oct 11, 2020

by Melissa Lushington, "Don't Cut Corners...Unless It's Cake" - Blog Slice #10

It is no secret that COVID-19 has made 2020 a rough year for all of us, some rougher than others, but imagine what it must be like for those who have special needs like those of the autism community. I started my spring semester this year back in January, and both of my courses were done in person for several weeks. It was only shortly after spring break, that COVID-19 broke out in America and many things began shutting down, including schools. As you can imagine, transitioning from in person to online classes was a stressful struggle for me, but for other individuals on the spectrum, the struggle is much worse. After all, a stabilized routine is one of the many things that people on the spectrum are comfortable having. To change it would be a difficult challenge to adjust to. Any parent who is struggling to help their autistic child adjust their education in the world of the new normal, should consider following the guidelines provided by a journal article titled Handle the Autism Spectrum Condition during Coronavirus (COVID-19) Stay at Home Period: Ten Tips for Helping Parents and Caregivers of Young Children written by Writer Antonio Narzisi.

Not to go through the whole list, but rather explain the top three, the first step would obviously be explaining to your autistic child about what COVID-19 is. According to the article, children with autism can have a complication with verbal communication and therefore show difficulties in perception. That is why explaining COVID-19 is very important, it is important to explain why everyone must wear masks, social distance, and stay at home. It is also important to make your explanation simple and concrete. You can even ask a therapist for help in preparing the discussion with pamphlets such as What is COVID-19? The explanation should be supported with methods such as concept mapping for the purpose of helping young verbal children with understanding complex situations. Another step would be to create a structure of daily life activities. Children on the spectrum tend to have functioning deficits and would therefore show issues in planning their daily life routines, especially when they are broken. So, it is useful to subdivide the activities so that every room would be assigned a different activity. This is a helpful tool for individuals across the spectrum, and it can be used in the form of a game in which every member of the family can use a blackboard to write out different planned activities. Finally, for the parents that deal with the stress of raising autistic children and helping them with their education, it is recommended that you schedule weekly online consultation with therapist for their children. Parents with autistic children tend to deal with more stress and therefore are more susceptible than those of children with other disabilities. Parents who are alone with their autistic children can also experience a higher risk of dealing with increased stress levels, which makes the following advice given even more vital.

In conclusion, we are living in difficult times right now wherein COVID-19 has completely altered our lives and changed them in ways that will last forever. Even when the pandemic does come to an end, none of us will come out the same way that we went in. Change is hard enough for the average person to adapt to, but it is especially difficult for those on the autism spectrum. Helping them with their education will be a difficult challenge, but if you are interested in making the process a little easier, I would suggest that you check out the following article given in this blog. It may be the helpful tool that you and your child needs during these unprecedented times.

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