Welcome to Autism Blueprint Quick Tips; A mini episode where I share a quick nugget of knowledge to help you on your autism journey.
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Today’s Topic: 4 Ways To Help Your Child Cope With COVID-19
- How your emotional state affects your child’s.
- Ways to manage your emotions during this difficult time.
- Why it’s important to presume your child’s competence.
- How structure can help reduce anxiety.
Mentioned on the podcast:
Join us for this informative Facebook Live Masterclass as we go into more detail about how to cope during this difficult time. Simply click the graphic below to join our private facebook group, and log in during the meeting time.
COVID 19 resources & social stories
National Autism Association: COVID 19 resources for families
If you have a child whose been recently diagnosed (within the past two years) you know how difficult this time can be. Building Your Foundation: What To Do After Your Child Is Diagnosed with Autism is an online course where Janeen will teach you all the things she wishes she had known when her child was diagnosed.
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Transcript of the Episode
4 Ways To Help Your Child With Autism Cope With COVID-19
This recent pandemic is certainly stressful for parents, but like most things in life, it’s even more so when you have kids on the autism spectrum. This is due to their need to know what’s coming next, their desire for routine and sameness, and difficulty self regulating. So today I’m going to share with you four ways to help your child cope. I’m also hosting a facebook live masterclass on the same topic with my colleague Katherine Lycke who is a marriage and family therapist. We’ll be diving a bit deeper into the the tips I’ll be sharing today as well as taking your questions.
To join us simply go to autismblueprint.com and click on the link to join our private autism blueprint FB group. And if you’re not able to attend live, it will be recorded and available for you to watch later.
SO lets dive into five things you can do to help your child cope with all the changes that are going on right now:
Manage your own emotions
Check in with your body from time to time- we hold emotions in our bodies so throughout the day, be sure to bring awareness to the part of your body where you may be holding tension; jaw, shoulders and neck are the most common. Take a few moments to stretch, loosen your jaw or drop your shoulders. Talk things out with friends or your spouse – or a therapist- if you’re feeling overly anxious. Many therapists are currently doing online appointments and working with you on cost- there’s actually never been a better time to start counseling. Go for a walk outside when you feel overly anxious or angry at your family members because they’re all on top of each other at home. The self care I regularly talk about is SO important right now.
If you’ve ever been on an airplane when they’re turbulence you know that if you look to the flight attendants, it can help you feel more at ease. If they are calm and going about business as usual, then things are probably okay. You take the questions from them. IN the same way, our kids take their emotional cues from us- they can’t regulate their emotional state if we can’t regulate ours.
This is no time for perfectionism and balance is going to be key. If you don’t want to homeschool you’d children, with all the bells and whistles and lesson plans, then don’t! It’s really okay. They will survive even several months of no school so don’t let the rhetoric of your child losing skills get to you. They will be okay and they will catch up. Keeping them safe and comfortable while this is going on is your main goal. For some kids, school is a comfort and the work will help get their mind off of things. You know your child best so rely on that and follow your instincts.
Presume competence in your child
This is something you’ve heard me talk about before but it bears repeating especially now- just because your child can’t respond appropriately or put together the questions they are wondering about, doesn’t mean they aren’t worried. The kids who we think are not paying attention, or don’t understand, often do, so it’s best to err on the side of caution and explain what’s going on. I’ve heard many stories about parents thinking their kids didn’t have a clue what was going on in the world, only to find out later through either their speech or an alternative means of communication, that they were very aware and angry that their parents hadn’t helped them understand things better. SO be age-appropriate with your child, and provide them with accurate information and encourage them to express their feelings about it.
Kids who have good verbal skills often don’t know what it is they are worried about and sometimes don’t have the executive functioning skills to ask the right questions, so it’s best to explain to them in simple terms what is happening without alarming them. Remember, we need to express seriousness without causing panic. SO your own self regulation is going to come into play here. Our 24 hour news cycles have been really good at showing us worst cases and trying to keep the public informed, but if you have the news on constantly, this is not only going to increase your anxiety, but your children’s as well. Get enough info to stay informed, but stop when it feels like too much. And shield your kiddos from it. The info they receive needs to come from you, the parent….which brings me to the next tip which is…
Explain what’s going on and answer questions as they come up
Places are closed, explain why but that the situation will be temporary- this will last for a few weeks. In the meantime let’s make a list of what we CAN do. Help them focus on what they CAN control, rather than what they can’t. Social stories are a great way to explain this, and I’ll link to a few of those resources in the show notes. There is a lot of good info out there on explaining this to children and with our kids on the spectrum, you can expect that they might ask many more questions and want as much info as possible. Our kids can be very literal in their interpretation of the world and many will have difficulty understanding something they cannot see. SO this would be a great time to talk about germs and viruses and how just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You could even explain how microscopes are used to determine if someone has the virus because it helps the doctor to actually see it.
Keep in mind that you can’t talk your child out of how ever they are feeling, but you can validate their experience and comfort them. Validating might sound like saying something like” you sound very worried about this. Tell me more about what you’re worried about.” Then you can put their minds at ease with a combination of reassuring them that you will keep them safe, and healthy and that all the decisions begin made to close schools and stores and their favorite restaurants are to keep them safe. If they get stuck on why they can’t go to chick oil a because they are used to doing that every Tuesday night, validate their disappointment and make sure they feel heard. Then remind them of why the restaurant seating is closed and what the alternative could be. That might mean going thru the drive thru and doing take out, or it could mean cooking chicken nuggets and French fries together. If nothing else, this will be an opportunity to help them learn flexibility, which can be really challenging for our kids. Above all remind them this situation is temporary and will go back to normal.
Structure helps us feel less out of control when the world around us is unpredictable. This could look like a schedule for the day, or a planned activity. But please use structure to help your child, not add more pressure to you or them. I see some parents out there planning every moment of every day, out of fear, and this approach is only going to add stress to your day. It’s okay if your kids have more screen time than usual. It’s okay if you ‘re allowing things you don’t usually allow…but try and provide a balance. Maybe bedtimes will be a bit more flexible, and maybe rest is what your kids might need some days. This might sound contrary to many things you’ll hear from educators or other professionals because we’ve been taught in the world of autism that we need to provide direction and teaching moments during every moment of the day. But this is not my philosophy, nor have I found it helpful. Know your kid…and I know you do. So following your instinct based on what you know about your child, will give you the best outcome. This might not be the best time to teach your child a new skill…they are dealing with a whole lot more- the change in routine alone could take them several weeks to adjust to. So be patient.
Well that’s all I have for you today- please consider joining us from our FB live Monday morning March 23rd, 2020, where we will dive more into this topic and take your questions as well. Go to autismblueprint.com for the show notes and a link to join the group. Stay safe and healthy everyone!
Music in this episode: Happy Whistling Ukelele by Sea Stock
Disclaimer: The information in this podcast is not intended to be a substitute for help from a licensed mental health professional.