One of the bigger reasons as to why Covid-19 is more disadvantageous to children with autism is due to the fact that they may not be able to communicate that they have contracted the symptoms if they do (Salomon, May 2021). Children with autism may be verbally limited or lack understanding of the symptoms warned by the medical departments hence struggle to express their discomforts like sore throats. In addition, it was estimated that 30% of the people who have contracted the disease had little to no symptoms despite being tested positive. This makes it harder for children and caregivers of autism to look out for the symptoms (World Health Organization, n.d.).
In addition to the difficulty finding out if a child with autism has contracted the disease, there have been many new rules and regulations put in place for the safety of the country – wearing of masks and social distancing. It may be difficult for people with autism to understand and execute social distancing properly and this may cause distress or raise unnecessary attention within the community or put themselves at a higher risk of acquiring the disease (Hendren, n.d.).
With coronavirus affecting the lives of many, it is inevitable to spark worry and anxiety in people, especially those with children. Children are very sensitive to feelings regardless of how they may seem and the worries and tensions that come from this disease may rub off to them (Amorim, et al., October 2020). It is important for caregivers and educators to sufficiently explain what coronavirus is and who it affects, why the regulations have been set in place and the dangers of it (Zwanenberg, n.d.). Necessary reassurances should also be given to prepare children with autism for when they may contract the disease, what a test kit is and how it will feel when used.
With restrictions and isolations, people with autism may lack the chance for social interaction. Social interaction allows children to engage in activities with others that interest them, for children with autism, it also helps build self-confidence and gives them an additional platform to express themselves (Amorim, et al., October 2020).
Despite the challenges, adjustments in routine can be made to prepare people with autism for the new normal. Roleplaying is an effective method to allow people with autism to experience how a social setting would be like, and it can help them understand what is expected of them when they are outside. Another method of introducing the topic of coronavirus to them would be to practice the necessary actions at home. Mask-wearing can be practiced at home since people are expected to wear masks even when indoors. People with autism may require reminders at the start as they may not be as aware when their mask is dropping down their face or if they forgot to put it back on after eating.
Higher functioning children with autism may engage in videocalls with their friends and family to keep the social interactions going (Zwanenberg, n.d.). It also encourages generalization of communication, showing that it does not always have to be a physical exchange. For lower functioning children with autism, parents may engage them in playing of toys and teach them play skills in the safety and comforts of home. Play skills are an important skill for children, and it helps with social interaction with their peers as well, examples would be sharing of toys, engaging in interactive play – example, building stairs out of blocks and having their friend climb the stairs with a toy character.
Written by Joleen.
Amorim, et al. (October 2020). The impact of COVID-19 on children with autism spectrum disorder. Neurologia.com. Retrieved from. https://www.neurologia.com/articulo/2020381/eng
Dhulipala (May 2021). Coronavirus in kids: Child getting a COVID test? Here’s how to prepare them. Entertainment Times. Retrieved from. https://static.toiimg.com/photo/82373400.cms
How to help an autistic child during a coronavirus outbreak. (n.d.) Priory. Retrieved from https://www.priorygroup.com/blog/how-to-help-an-autistic-child-during-the-coronavirus-outbreak
Salomon (May 2021). 5 things people with autism and their caregivers should know about Covid-19 vaccines. Everyday Health. https://www.everydayhealth.com/autism/things-people-with-autism-and-caregivers-should-know-about-covid-19-vaccines/