All of us around the world are passing through some of the darkest days of our lives – the ongoing lockdown and the gloomy long days augmenting our anxieties by every passing day. No one is pretty sure about how long will this go as we all are still in our early days of this worldwide crises. The only thing that seems to be common for all of us is that we are all confined to our homes as we are gradually getting to accept the new normal. We hope this will continue for a short period.
Amidst all uncertainties, Parents with an autistic child have a big mountain ahead to climb as they have started a journey which seems to be quite daunting compared to rest of us. April is Autism Awareness Month which is in sync with the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19. There is no pill, no vaccine and nothing as such – only prevention seems to be the best option for all. Therefore, it is important to take preventive measures.
The most important aspect here for all is basic preventive measures, which are same for all including autistic children as well. However, autistic children have some unique needs and specific behaviours owing to some specificities associated with autism, certain stereotyped behaviour patterns and problems in social communication. When we take into consideration all these aspects, children with autism oppose changes in their rigid behaviour – which could be a huge challenge for parents and caretakers.
Based on the severity of the Autism Spectrum Disorders, parents of an autistic child depend on a small group of committed professionals: paediatric neurologists, child psychologists, supportive staff, therapists, coaches and family members. All of them provide emotional support, sensory inputs and social stimulus to ensure sailing through the long days. During the lockdown, both parents and their children suffer as all facilities, centres, and schools that children with autism visit frequently have been shut down completely – which is an additional burden for parents.
Being parent, while taking care of your child or any other family member who is autistic, you should talk to them about COVID-19 and the spread of infection to provide the necessary information with the child needs, but be sure not to frighten them. If you are unable to guide or support your child during these tough times, take expert guidance.
Communicate information about COVID-19 in an illustrative way with appropriate visuals and pictures or stories. Teach them about the flu and how it spreads.
Pass on the information beforehand about the health issues associated with the infection. Information should be given to children according to their understanding and age.
Communicate with the professionals, caregivers, support groups, school contacts and others about the special needs of your child so that they can come out with a better preventive plan.
Be careful and observe whether your child is showing signs of distress or any changes in their routine.
Your child may need additional supports if they are feeling stressed or anxious. Provide them support and persuade them.
Ensure that you are acting positively while taking care of your child and inspiring them to feel safe through frightening situations.