Helping Children Cope with Changes as a Result of COVID-19

Families across the country are adjusting to the many changes resulting from COVID-19, including changes in daily life, the way we educate our children, and what we will now define as the new normal. This also includes keeping children occupied and focused on what is important. It is important to note that during this stressful time, children look to adults for guidance, so the way you react can have a major impact on how your child perceives and reacts to the changes occurring and information presented. COVID-19 gives parents the ability to model routines, schedules, and remote school lessons in creative ways. The following tips can help:

· Children look up to you. Staying calm, collected, and informed during this unsure time can decrease your child’s fears and ensure your child has the facts. Carefully listen to your child and help your child draw or write out concerns, thoughts, and feelings, then respond with truth, validation, and reassurance.

· Explain what COVID-19 and social distancing are. Children most likely do not fully understand what COVID-19 is and why we are social distancing. Create visuals or hands on activities for your child to explain what the COVID-19 virus does and exactly why we are participating in social distancing.

· Keep a morning routine, and don’t forget to relax. Keeping up with a regular schedule, especially as things start to shift to the new normal, is important to keep your child at ease. Working with your BCBA to identify preferences for activities that are calming and relaxing in nature to your child can help. An example of an activity that may be a preference to your child is yoga, deep breathing, or meditation.

· Model basic hygiene and health practices. Encourage your child to practice regular hygiene like washing hands for at least 20 seconds, wearing a mask in public, and teaching personal space.

· Be aware of your child’s mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to change the way we interact. This can mean decreased contact with friends and family. Pay close attention to your child’s eating and sleeping habits – if you see a sudden change, consult with a mental healthcare professional.

Keeping an open, understanding mind towards your child’s concerns can help your child adjust to the fears of going back to school in the fall and others concerns your child might have.

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Tips for Helping Your Child get the most of E-Learning

With the rapid spread of COVID-19, we saw a drastic shift in how many students would be learning at the start of the Fall 2020 school year. There are a few different learning modals that are being followed by different school districts. Many children are fully remote, having all their learning occur via an online platform. Some children are spending 2-4 days a week in person at school, with shortened days and additional e-learning occurring at home. And finally, several school districts have chosen to return to school full time with precautions in place.  
E-learning can be a difficult transition for children with ASD for several reasons. The fact that they will be required to attend to a computer for long periods of time, with the added distractor of being at home can pose a challenge. There may also be longer periods of downtime, while the teacher is asking other students questions or prepping for the next activity. Many kids use IPads or computers for leisure activities, and they may be tempted to exit out of their e-learning platform to engage in other activities. Finally, the change in routine can be incredibly challenging for children, the idea of going to school but remaining home can be difficult to understand or adjust to.   
There are several things parents can do to help support their children with ASD when it comes to e-learning. Visual schedules and calendars to help their children prepare for their day and attend to tasks as needed. This can help ease some anxiety and transitions between classes. It can also detail which class they will be attending, and which teacher will be leading the class. Helping prep the learning area at home can support success when it comes to e-learning. Providing the child with a decluttered workspace, removing as many distractions as possible. Also providing an environment with minimal noise, and if needed have fidgets to help with any needed movement breaks and support focus on each class/task.   
Parents can also reach out to their child’s teacher for any resources to help familiarize the child to the new virtual learning platform. There are also support groups available for parents to help gain additional ideas to support children with the new platform for learning this school year. Finally, parents can request IEP meetings to discuss appropriate supports for their children during remote learning. These meetings can be used to discuss any needed changes to the content or methods of instruction. 
2020 marked a huge change to our educational system and with that many challenges arose for our children. Parents can help prepare their students for the changes in their learning platforms in a few different ways. Preparing our students in advance can help them anticipate the changes, and possibly make the transition a little smoother. Establishing daily routines can also help a child adjust to their new learning platform. Visual schedules can help support the new routine and guide e-learning. Online learning can be confusing to some children, as they may be only used to using their IPads/computers for leisure activities. Helping them understand when it is time for e-learning and when it is time to play can help them understand how they are using their devices at a given time. If additional supports are needed, parents can reach out to either their child’s teacher or call for an IEP meeting. Additional resources/accommodations can be made to ensure a child is able to succeed with their new e-learning platform. 

4 Tips to a Happy Halloween

Halloween is a day that most kids wait all year for. It’s a time to dress up in a fun costume and then go out to people’s houses to get bags full of candy. What’s not to love about that? Fact is, children on the autism spectrum may not love it, and they may not understand it. Dressing up and upsetting normal routines can cause stress and anxiety for a child with autism. Participation in events like this is a goal, and there are some easy ways to making it a successful and stress free time. This article will give you 4 tips to a Happy Halloween.

4 Tips

  • Keep the costume to something simple. Not all costumes have to be made of uncomfortable material and have big cumbersome masks. Do something simple. An example of a simple costume would be Superman, but instead of a cape and tights, just use a T-Shirt with the Superman logo on it.
  • Trick or Treat if tolerated and for a short amount of time. If your child cannot tolerate trick or treating, do not force the issue. If they can, do it for a very short amount of time. Your child will have the experience, but not to a point that is disturbing to them.
  • Make necessary modifications. Put a bowl of candy outside your house for trick or treaters to take without them having to knock or ring the doorbell all night. The constant noise and hassle of answering the door with strangers outside might be too much for your child.
  • Go with the flow. You know your child best and understand what he or she enjoys and what may be too much. The last thing that anyone wants is for your child to have a negative experience on Halloween that lasts with them forever. Make decisions based on what’s best for your child.

Enjoy Together

The most important thing to remember is to enjoy Halloween together. Having a plan and following the 4 simple tips above can create an atmosphere filled with joy and laughter. Halloween in general has been toned down a bit in communities to make it more fun filled, and less scary for children.  Create a safe place for your child and make memories that can last forever.


Back To School: Tips for Enhancing Learning For Children With Autism

For children with autism, going back to school after summer break can be an exciting time. However, with the current circumstances surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, it may make for a more difficult transition to in-person or e-learning. Here are some tips on how you can enhance learning for your child in the classroom.

  • Provide your child’s teacher with as much information as possible. Information like your child’s likes, dislikes, favorite sensory activities, and favorite extracurricular activities can help your child’s teacher decide on the best method of teaching for your child. 
  • Meet with your child’s teacher if possible. Meeting with your child’s teacher in person or over a video call allows you to ask questions that may be easier to ask than over email. Not to mention, participating in meetings with your child’s teacher shows them you’re serious about their education and looking to put forth the most effort to help your child succeed.
  • Share your child’s diagnosis with their teacher. As a parent, sharing your child’s diagnosis with their peers is a personal decision, but sharing their diagnosis with their teacher with full disclosure offers clarity for learning methods and how the teacher may handle and understand your child.

While the COVID-19 pandemic can be a stressful time, your child’s education is still important. Allowing yourself to embrace the recent changes with your child may make it easier for them to adjust to the changes they will face this upcoming school year.