Monmouth's Ask the Doctor May-June 2020

How Do I Talk to My Child With Autism About Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Here are ten simple tips to consider when explaining coronavirus with your child with autism spec- trum disorder (ASD) along with an excellent social story to foster understanding and help reduce anx- iety. 1. Talk to Your Child A lengthy and medical explanation is not always necessary when explaining the coronavirus to a child with autism. Since it is being heavily discussed, it is not unnatural for a child with autism to have ques- tions. Simply explain that it is a new infectious disease and was unknown until an outbreak in China in December 2019. 2. Schools Are Closing

K I D S ’ H E A L T H & C A M P Schools are a necessary part of a child’s daily routine. The closing of your child’s school can affect him/her in a multiple of ways. It will be vital that you address this situation with your child as behaviors as a sense of security can heighten when established daily routines radically change. 3. Look for Signs of Illness It is crucial you educate yourself on the warning signs of this illness. Many of you may have children with autism who can verbalize when they are feeling ill. Others may have children on the spectrum who are non-verbal and are unable to communicate their needs. As a parent, you’ll need to watch for signs of: • Runny nose • Sore throat 4. Grocery Stores Grocery stores are an excellent place for your child with autism to practice social skills. However, your child may now sense a state of panic that may be occurring within these stores. They may wonder why aisles usually filled with water, toilet paper, or hand sanitizer are now empty. Preparing your child ahead of time by discussing these situations will assist him/her with dealing with them. 5. Change in Routine Parents of children with autism often recognize the importance of routines for their children. However, trips to grandma at the senior citizen’s home, the closings of schools, and canceled travel plans may bring behavioral concerns to the surface. Discussing these changes in routine may help your child cope better with them. 6. Protective Practices Modeling proactive protective practices can be a great way for your child to learn them. Demonstrate how to wash your hands. Have fun with this activity by singing songs such as “Happy Birthday” to demonstrate how long to wash your hands before stopping. Remind your child of the importance of handwashing after using the bathroom or eating. Show your child how to move at least three away from someone who is coughing or sneezing and how to sneeze into his/her own elbow. 7. Stress With all the changes in established routines, your child with autismmay begin to become overly anxious or stressed. He/she may panic if another child is coughing or sneezing based upon a simple cold or allergies, he/she is experiencing. Keeping the lines of communica- tion open with your child may assist with reducing some of his/her concerns. 8. Staying Away from Sick Individuals Explain to your child with autism that if one of his/her classmates, friends, or relatives become sick that he/she may not be able to see or be around them for several weeks. However, thanks to social media, cell phones, and the use of video conferencing like Zoom, your child can still maintain his/her social connections. 9. Supervision Plans With the closings of schools, parents will need to be proactive with the supervision of their children at home. Many schools have closed for the rest of the school year, or have placed all classes online. If you are a working parent, you may need to seek in-home care for the supervision of your child with autism. This may involve hiring a babysitter, or having a relative come to care for your child. 10. Social Stories Social Stories are a terrific resource to use with your child with autism. Take a look at the one below to assist you with describing coro- navirus and the changes that may need to take place. This social story can become part of your daily routine and help with reducing your child’s anxiety levels. Source: Autism Speaks • Nasal congestion • Diarrhea




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