STONY BROOK, NY, May 28, 2020 – The changed societal norms because of the Covid-19 pandemic are challenging for all. But for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), the challenges are often more difficult with the risks of feeling isolated and lonely greater than the general population. Families who have children with ASD are also facing unprecedented changes in routines that require major adjustments to keep their children focused and content.
Matthew Lerner, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Psychiatry & Pediatrics in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, and Director of the Autism Initiative, and colleagues have developed programs and strategies for families to cope and adjust during the pandemic and in anticipation of how life will change in its aftermath.
Through the Autism Initiative, they are:
- Providing weekly Facebook video conferences for families that offer tips on how to cope with stressors that arise with their children at home and ways to instill routines.
- Giving tips such as how to develop “visuals” in scheduling or a “to do” list for their children; a useful tool children with ASD often respond to well.
- Sharing resources for families covering a myriad of needs, such as providing additional activities for children online, or how to get telehealth services for them.
Dr. Lerner also provides recommendations for families to address in a time of a pandemic and social distancing. He can address these in detail and why they are important, such as:
- Caregivers at home must recognize that just because children with ASD seem to be fine when alone, without structure and scheduling they are actually more prone to feelings of isolation loneliness than others.
- Services for children with ASD are more numerous than for children without the condition. Now these services are less available. This builds more stress in parents and families, which they need to monitor for their own health and well-being.
- Make a point to connect with your children’s teachers to gain additional insight to providing effective educational practices while at home.
- During this time families need to find ways to help train flexibility while their children are at home. Certain games may help to achieve more flexibility, which is necessary in a pandemic will continue to be if scheduling and school settings change in the future after the pandemic.