Children with autism find ways to cope with COVID-19 changes

Tips for parents and kids

JOPLIN, Mo. – With schools closed due to COVID-19, kids with autism who count on having a set schedule are struggling to adjust, and that’s hard on parents like Melissa Moore.

“Routines and structure are kinda out the window as far as what our typical life looks like and so really it’s about trying to create that new normal and what does that look like and as a family, how can we make that work,” explained Moore, Director of Pediatric Services at the Ozark Center.

Moore’s son is 10-years-old, and as a child with autism, he struggles with changes. Creating a schedule and involving him in the process helps.

“Children with expressive or receptive language difficulties are going to be looking for environmental cues and that’s where if you have that routine, they can have a little bit more of a calmness and that anxiety can be reduced because they know what’s next,” said Moore.

The Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism in Joplin is staying connected with families, offering guidance and ideas virtually to keep kids learning, even while school is out of session.

“Through those Tele-Health connections, we’re really able to check in with families and see how things are going, where they may be struggling to know what to do academically, or through communication or socialization since obviously those opportunities are limited right now,” said Kristy Parker, Clinical Director for the Leffen Center.

There are other resources online for parents, support groups on social media, and even tools to help explain the coronavirus to kids with autism so they can understand why things are different.

“Remember to share the information that you and I both want because that’s what our individuals with autism would like to have access to as well,” said Parker.

Moore wants other parents to know that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to cut yourself some slack.

“Breathe. I mean everybody has to be thinking about their self-care. It’s hard on our kids, but it’s hard on us too.”

You can also reach out to your child’s school to find out what their lesson plans looked like or get ideas about what you can do at home.

The Leffen Center’s “Walk For Autism” event has been postponed due to COVID-19, but Parker says people can still show support by calling an individual with autism to make sure they’re doing okay during this difficult time.