Strategies to support teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorder during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as “the struggle of our era.” Tens of millions of households are bravely waging struggle on COVID-19 by rising to the various challenges of social distancing, together with upended faculty and work routines, monetary insecurity, and incapability to see family members, all compounded by the uncertainty of how lengthy it will final. These challenges are doubtless magnified for these with autism spectrum dysfunction (ASD). Options of ASD, together with impaired social and communication abilities, repetitive behaviors, and insistence on sameness, could make it very obscure social distancing, categorical misery, and adapt to new routines.

What has the affect of the COVID-19 pandemic been on youngsters with ASD and their households?

Social distancing has created many new challenges for households caring for youngsters with ASD within the residence. Many youngsters with ASD obtain help providers together with particular training, behavioral remedy, occupational remedy, speech providers, and particular person aides by way of faculty. Delivering these providers nearly is a serious problem, significantly since many youngsters with ASD have already got social and communication difficulties, limiting the utility of video chat. Dad and mom are due to this fact discovering themselves concurrently anticipated to play the function of dad or mum, particular training trainer, and particular person aide, all of the whereas offering take care of different kids and juggling work-from-home tasks. Aggressive and self-injurious behaviors may additionally enhance throughout this time of worry and uncertainty.

What about younger adults who dwell in group houses?

Group residence residents have been impacted by social distancing in a number of distinctive methods. First, many group houses throughout the US have restricted guests to authorized guardians. For a lot of, because of this they aren’t permitted in-person visits with mother and father. Second, group residence residents are actually now not permitted to interact of their regular routines at day packages and work websites. Due to these restrictions, group residence residents are actually usually confined to their group houses, and social interactions are restricted to advert hoc actions with different residents and workers members, usually inside the group residence. Third, the frustration of lacking extremely anticipated occasions reminiscent of outings and household holidays will be amplified for an individual with a restricted understanding of the pandemic, significantly for these with mental incapacity. Many people with ASD might even view these restrictions as punitive, rising the chance of hysteria, despair, or behavioral outbursts.

Methods to help youngsters and younger adults with ASD throughout COVID-19

Educate youngsters about COVID-19. Since confusion can gas worry and nervousness, you will need to educate youngsters and younger adults with ASD about COVID-19 and social distancing. Publicity to COVID-19 by way of the media will be overwhelming and misinterpreted. The language used when discussing COVID-19 must be clear, direct, and tailored to the particular person’s cognitive capacity. It might be useful to make use of a visible support. Many individuals even have misperceptions and catastrophic fears about COVID-19, so it may be useful to ask immediately: “What have you learnt about COVID-19?” and “What worries you most about COVID-19?” Enable {the teenager} or younger grownup with ASD to information how a lot or how little he/she wish to know and when he/she wish to discuss it.

Maintain the routines that you could maintain. Routines are essential to individuals with ASD. Whereas a lot of our routines have dramatically modified, there are additionally many routines and rituals that we will help maintain the identical, reminiscent of mealtimes, bedtime, and different schedules (for instance, “I at all times name Grandma on Sundays.”).

Create new routines. It may be useful to switch the actions which can be now not potential with new routines to assist create a brand new regular. When potential, these routines ought to incorporate social connectedness, enjoyable, and bodily train (like household dance events after dinner).

Apply outdated coping abilities and study new ones. That is the time to recall and remind {the teenager} or younger grownup of coping abilities that helped him/her handle difficult conditions up to now. These might embody listening to acquainted music, visible aids to bolster communication, partaking in hobbies, or speaking with family and friends.

Improve communication. It’s pure for folks and kids to fret about each other, significantly when in-person contact is restricted, as it’s for many who dwell in group houses. Open and frequent communication between group residence workers and members of the family about insurance policies and practices to optimize an infection management, in addition to how residents are doing, will help alleviate these worries.

Plan one thing to look ahead to. Since many spring occasions together with holidays and household holidays have been cancelled, it may be useful for households to plan delayed occasions or celebrations. Planning these occasions not solely creates one thing constructive for a household to look ahead to, however they’ll additionally function a strong reminder that this too shall go.

Search psychological well being providers. In case your teenager or younger grownup is having issue coping or is exhibiting elevated aggression or self-injury, you will need to search psychological well being providers. Many clinics are persevering with to offer care by way of telehealth, together with discuss remedy and medicine administration.

Youngsters and younger adults with ASD can study beneficial life classes

If youngsters with ASD are well-supported and socially related throughout these troublesome occasions, this era of social distancing might function a catalyst for private growth somewhat than a time of regression and lack of abilities. If we interact with youngsters with understanding and good function modeling, we will help younger individuals with ASD to tolerate uncertainty, settle for what’s past their management, and construct their resilience and sources — issues they’ll management.

Assets

Information to Psychological Well being Assets for COVID-19, Massachusetts Normal Hospital Division of Psychiatry.

COVID-19 info, Middle for Autism Analysis and Therapy, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Conduct, College of California Los Angeles.

Coronavirus/COVID-19 Useful resource Library, American Academy of Youngster & Adolescent Psychology.

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