Article & Video: How to cope with disrupted family routines during COVID-19 (Autism Speaks)
School closures are now widespread as part of the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While these are critical steps to protect the health of Americans, the disruption in routine for children with autism or special needs can be incredibly hard.
Long-term changes to daily schedules can mean a loss of skills they may have gained during school programming or lead to increased anxiety and problem behaviors. In addition, parents who are also at home unexpectedly and juggling work with home life have fewer options to balance all these demands.
To help your family cope with these significant disruptions and ease the related challenges, experts suggest developing a modified version of your child’s typical school routine that you adapt to your home environment. The routine should also consider the other demands on caregivers/parents, siblings or other family members, and self-care. A balance of structured activities is ideal along with setting the expectation of what happens next. You can use a visual schedule to support children with communication needs.
Start with your child’s typical school schedule. Start with the first period or subject of the day, and structure an at-home “school day” routine that follows the subjects and activities that your child typically does in their school and classroom. For example, if their day typically starts with writing and moves on to science, gym, lunch, recess, math, snack and ends with music, you can loosely structure at-home learning activities in this order.
Build in extra time for physical activity. Include gross motor activities to encourage both physical and mental well-being. You can also use this time for family connection by doing activities outside together – such as a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood while practicing social distancing, or an at-home workout (search YouTube for family-friendly workouts and yoga classes) – and modeling a habit of regular daily exercise.