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Helping Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder during COVID-19

Written by Justine Padula
Published on May 11, 2020

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has closed schools for the remainder of the year, forcing families to develop and adjust to new routines, homeschool their children, isolate from family and friends and follow social-distancing guidelines. Adjusting to a new routine can be difficult and stressful for some but is especially challenging for children with Autism.

How can we help children with Autism during COVID-19?

Children with Autism rely on and strive with structure and predictable daily schedules. Do your best to stick to your family’s “norms”. Set up a daily visual schedule consisting of school work, games, independent activities, arts and crafts, outside time, and try to be consistent with a regular bed and wake up times as well as meal schedules.

To help with the transition from one activity to another, set a timer, and provide warnings to help with the ending one activity and transition to the next. When possible, offer controlled choices to your children. For example, you can let them choose what puzzle they want to do, what they want for snacks or meals, and when presenting them with schoolwork, what assignment or task they want to do first.

Talking with your child about COVID-19

Are your children asking a lot of questions around COVID-19? Why they can’t see their family and friends, go back to school, or why people are wearing masks?

COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty, questions, fears, and frustrations. Still, it’s essential to talk to your children about the Coronavirus and what they need to do to continue to keep themselves and others healthy. Social stories are a social learning tool that consists of words and pictures that depict social situations that an individual may encounter. Social stories can be used to teach communal skills about everyday events that children may find difficult or confusing.

Utilizing a social story to explain what the Coronavirus is, why all this change is happening, why they can’t go to school, and rules to keep them and others safe. For example, Coronavirus can make people very sick, so we have to wash our hands often, keep our hands to ourselves and away from our mouths and faces, wear masks when out in public and stay 6ft away from people who don’t live in our house.

It is common for children to show signs of regression, both academically and behaviorally, during transitions and especially unpredictable circumstances. If your child is exhibiting sleep regression, increased maladaptive behaviors such as aggression or self-injury, seek additional support from your children’s teachers, behavioral specialists, and health care providers.


If you or a loved one needs help supporting an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder O’Connor Professional Group is here to help. Call (617) 221-8764 or visit our Contact Us to see how you can help.


Meet the Author

Justine Padula, M. Ed. is an OPG Clinical Case Manager.  Justine completed her Masters at Simmons College and has accrued over nine years of experience working with individuals with behavioral and emotional challenges.  She has expertise in providing care in families’ homes, at schools, and in the community as a client transitions back from treatment.  Justine has experience conducting and implementing Applied Behavior Analysis, Functional Behavioral Assessments, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Dialectical Behavior Therapy modalities.  She is passionate about supporting individuals in developing strategies and tools to manage daily living tasks, achieve their goals, and maintain healthy behavioral changes.  In her personal time, Justine enjoys spending time with her family, playing sports, going to the beach, and traveling.

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