We are all living in a time of uncertainty with this global health pandemic, but we don’t have to focus on the negatives, especially when it comes to our children and students! At Banyan Tree, we believe in kindness and acceptance come first. Many people have shared ways to support loved ones during this time, and our goal is to share our favorite pieces of advice.
Every single person is going to react to these times and changes differently. If you’re looking for ways to support your autistic child during Coronavirus, here are a few tips and tools we recommend:
1. Try to Fight Against Fear
These times can be scary, but as parents/guardians, try your best to push against that fear to show your child that things will be okay. We know that emotions are human, and while we don’t advocate for dismissing them, we do encourage regulating of emotions to help yourself and your child feel more stable during these changing times.
Try to speak about changes in language that your child can understand. You can, as international autism expert Temple Grandin says, “Compare it to a storm that you have to hunker down for; except this is a longer storm. Explain that we will have a schedule, we will do our work, schoolwork or homework, play some games and watch movies as a family, and when we do things together it will help keep us safe.”
2. Maintain Perspective
It’s easy for anyone — young or old — to feel stressed during this time! For autistic children in particular, it’s important that parents/guardians help to maintain perspective during the unknown. Explain what’s going on and how it’s changing daily life for everyone. Rather than focusing on what’s scary (and continuing the feelings of fear) encourage your child that everyone is going through this together.
If your child is working with a teacher or tutor, reach out to that teacher and see if he/she can meet with your child over Zoom. Reminding your child that he/she has supports outside of the home is important for keeping perspective, too.
3. Offer Stimulating Activities
You can support your autistic child during Coronavirus by offering activities, games, and moments in his/her schedule that are stimulating.
Grandin says, “I would suggest getting your child online with some friends from school on Zoom or calling them on the phone. It’s something specific, something they can look forward to and it doesn’t cost money. Let’s keep to our schedule and take the child who is getting bored and find some grown-up literature on history, politics, science, or anything else that piques their interest. And absolutely no slouching around in our pajamas.”
4. Choose Fun Whenever Possible
Although the goal is to try to normalize your child’s day as much as possible, choose fun over fear (especially if you see your child escalating or off-balance).
You can support your autistic child during Coronavirus by providing opportunities to destress, refocus, and have fun. Activities like board games or even movie nights can help move attention from what’s scary or different to something that’s a more positive distraction. Grandin explains that when we choose fun, we ‘turn off’ the fear emotions. “When you and your child are making cookies,” she says, “figuring out how to make cookies turns on the seek emotion and turns off the fear emotions.”
If you’d like to speak with one of our teachers or directors about ways you can help your child at home, please send us an email!
We would be more than happy to help you navigate this difficult time.