How to support autistic kids during the pandemic

The coronavirus has brought a lot of changes worldwide and has affected many people. It has led to the closure of a lot of businesses, schools and other industries. The change was never easy but it was extremely difficult for children with autism. The families need to adapt with the sudden changes and disruption which mean, routines, if not their lives have to change as well. This created challenging issues for autistic kids.

The uncertainty bought by the pandemic has become stressful not only to the kids in the spectrum but also to their parents. Most families have seen challenging behaviours and meltdowns from their children who are having issues coping up with the sudden change and may not know how to express their frustrations. This can be very difficult for everyone.

Because of the pandemic, the usual support or structure learnings from schools and other programs were closed. Families are advised to stay at home and advised to take online learning. Going to therapies is limited as well. 

So how do we accommodate our children with autism during these difficult times? 

Talk about COVID 

Your child may have questions about the virus but they are unable to ask them to you. They may have heard about it during a conversation in the family. Even if your child has not come to you and opened up about the topic, find time to discuss the coronavirus with your child. Find opportunities through visual support to be able to explain well the situation we are currently in. Relay important messages to your kids like proper handwashing, social distancing and why people need to wear masks. Explain these things at your child’ developmental level.

It is advisable to turn off the news both from television and radio. Also, prevent your child from browsing the internet about the virus. They may find information or false information about the virus that will possibly cause anxiety and distress.

Plan a new schedule

Since the usual routine is no longer applicable, you have to set up new schedules and timetables. To minimise the anxiety in distress in your child, instead of making the schedule on your own, involve your child in planning their new schedule and routine.

Since children with autism always look for familiarity, create a schedule that will almost mirror their regular school day before the pandemic happened. Include breaks for snacks, lunch and playtime. You can ask them their preferred break time. For example, ask them “Do you want to go outside after your lunchtime? “Do you want to play blocks during your playtime?” If you do this, you are giving them the chance to take control during this uncontrollable situation.

Using visuals to support the steps to be taken on the day can also help. Write your schedules on the board or place it on the wall along with written words and maybe pictures that will show the activity. Using audio as a cue that it’s time for them to move on to the next activity is also beneficial.

Children with autism may struggle with sudden changes because they don’t know what to expect. But with schedules and timetables, they will be able to anticipate their next activity and they’ll find comfort.

Limit screen time

Electronics can be a helpful tool for your child to continue learning through a virtual lesson. It can also be used for them to connect with their friends and teachers so that social anxiety does not grow. In doing screen time, you should establish the right time and spaces. Assign a certain time that should be spent on online learning and another time for connecting to peers. It is important to make this clear to your child. Electronics may be a positive tool but too much screen time can cause irritability, hyperactivity and they may have a hard time sleeping.

Limit your child’s screen time and encourage them to get a healthy dose of outside.

Maintain a good sleep routine

To have a good night sleep is important for your child so instil a bedtime routine and good sleep hygiene strategies. To be able to achieve this, encourage your child to do physical activity in the form of exercise during the day. Make sure they do not intake caffeine after midday. Tell them to use the bed only for sleeping, not playing or sit on it during screen time. Go to bed the same time every night and wake up the same time every morning, every day, whether it’s weekdays or weekends.

Avail of treatment opportunities

Because of the stay-at-home orders, many medical treatments and intervention may not be available. However, there are medical professionals and therapists who have transitioned in providing treatment through online services. Find a provider that offers these services online or speak with your current therapist and find out what services you may be eligible for.

There are also therapists who offer services that centre on parents to provide them with the tools needed such as toys for autistic kids to manage interventions at home. If your child has a behavioural dysregulation, speak with your provider to see what they can do or if it is possible to do in-person service.

Find opportunities that will help you maintain your child’s acquired skills and learning during regular interventions and treatments. Continue to connect with your provider  whether things are going well or not.

How spirituality can benefit health workers

The focus of medicine nowadays has become technological and cure-oriented. In the past century, it used to be service-oriented. This change was brought by the advances of technology. Because of the advancement, the world of medicine is giving an opportunity for patients to prolong their life. But before all of this has happened, health workers in past few decades have tried their best to balance by reclaiming the spiritual roots of medicine. It has been recognized that spirituality is linked to health care.

When a patient found out that they have some serious illness like cancer, they tend to question everything. They ask their doctors if there is anything left they can do. They feel afraid thinking of the pain and suffering ahead. They fear where they are going after they die. There are lots of pressing concerns for people who are very sick. Now, both medical and health workers, especially the doctors, must tackle such personal concerns of their patients. This is because sooner or later, they will face this kind of health care crisis.

The question is, should health workers take seriously the spiritual concerns of their patients? Will this strengthen the reform of health care? Will this help them approach their patients more compassionately? If this is taken into account, what will be the look of future health care say, fifty years from now?

Spirituality is essential in any person. It helps improve your health and well being. For patients, it helps them cope up with their illness and help them enhance their recovery.

What is spirituality?

Different people have a different meaning for spirituality. For some, it has something to do with their religion and church. Others define spirituality as non-religious practice while there are some who believed it is both religious and non-religious activities. Spirituality can mean a time for reflection and doing meditation. It can also mean connecting back to nature by simply taking a walk or watching the stars.

Because of spirituality, people find a higher purpose for their lives. You get to believe that something is more significant than you. It gives you more peace, joy, understanding and connection. Regardless of how you defined spirituality, one is for sure, and it provides a substantial impact on your health. It gives you more hope, guidance, trust, and it helps you look into the future.

For health workers, they often ask on how to approach the area of spirituality in treating their patients. How do they select their patients who are candidates for spiritual history? Ideally, health workers shouldn’t wait for patients to provide this opportunity. It would be better if they may need it a part of their conversation with patients as they conduct physical examinations for outpatients as well as those who are already admitted. Health workers need to know if there are factors in their spiritual beliefs that affect their patient’s medical decision-making.

According to studies, patients favoured if health workers conduct spirituality. But even if this is the case, an only a small amount of patients have genuinely experienced this. It may be a sensitive issue, and the patient, as well as the family, may feel uncomfortable if the topic of spirituality is being discussed. However, this can be handled well by informing the patient that research shows, spirituality plays a significant role in healing. So since health workers are interested in the well being of their patients, they also should be interested in whatever that supports their patients in getting better.

Understanding the role of spirituality in healthcare has a lot of benefits, not only to patients but also to health workers. This will give balance in their medical practice. This will lead doctors to be more compassionate and be able to give their patients the whole service, including their emotional, physical, social and spiritual well being. As a result, patients can improve their stress control which can help in increasing their personal strength, resulting in better-coping skills.

By talking about spirituality, health workers can help their patients to have a more positive outlook in life, to trust the treatment and healing process and to believe in total recovery. With this, there will be a fulfilment to both patients and the health workers.