When PM Lee first announced the Circuit Breaker measures in Singapore, I’m sure we were all caught off guard. How are we going to work/learn from home? What are we supposed to do being cooped up at home all day? It was a huge disruption to everyone’s routine, and we all struggled to cope with the new changes. As I fumbled my way through this period, I can’t help but think about how challenging it must have been for children with autism.
Although we are in the midst of phase 2, there are still some changes that we need to start getting used to — wearing a mask when we are out, keeping our social distance from one another, and the list goes on. Therefore, I hope this post could help you and your little one navigate through this difficult time.
#1 Talk to them about it
As children with autism thrive on routines, sudden changes like these may cause heightened anxiety and stress. Hence, it would be good to help them understand what is happening around them and what changes there are that we need to adapt to. It is also important to teach them how to protect themselves (and others), and how to manage their feelings during this period.
A great way to do so is through social stories! Social stories are often used to teach children with autism about social situations and how to behave and respond to them appropriately. Here is a list of free resources that you can download to use with your child:
Let’s fight COVID-19! Educational Resources for children with special needs by Superhero Me: https://www.superherome.sg/covid19
Wagga learns about COVID-19 by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital: https://www.kkh.com.sg/Documents/covid19-resources/wagga-covid19.pdf?fbclid=IwAR1qLrOOMK6Pvnhqko0oVpMZcPXL4YFp0la9nOlTgdvXqltsfSwzD-g8z60
Wagga stays at home by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital: https://www.kkh.com.sg/Documents/covid19-resources/wagga-at-home.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0ggPidZmPgIhacoK8futbALW-qTFBmLpiiuKJUzfH908-fB_YxxkeigmE
Super Sleuths by EtonHouse: https://info.etonhouse.com.sg/the-super-sleuths-covid19ebook
COVID-19 for kids by Catherine Cheung and Elvin Too: https://covid19kidsbook.com/
Social Stories/activities by Autism Little Learners: https://www.autismlittlelearners.com/search/label/COVID-19?m=1
#2 Establish a routine at home
Having a routine gives children a sense of security and structure. Have a schedule/to-do list for the day so that your child knows what to expect/do. This eases transitions from one activity to another and also keeps them occupied meaningfully. If your child is up for it, plan their day together with them; empower them by giving them choices!
You may find these resources helpful in creating a schedule for your child:
Visual Schedules/Token Board/Resources by Easterseals: https://qrcgcustomers.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/account4876975/6552095_2.pdf?0.11589340381807767
It can be especially stressful having to juggle work and family commitments during this period, and the last thing you would want is to collapse. Children can easily pick up on your mood and stress levels too. Hence, be mindful of your mental health so that you don’t inadvertently influence your child with negative emotions. Besides, you are already doing your best, so cut yourself some slack and give yourself more credit! You deserve some time to yourself too, so please, please, please take care of yourself!
#4 Be patient and empathetic
Don’t expect them to be able to adjust to things immediately. Understand that these changes may cause them to be more upset than usual. Recognise that it may be due to sensory issues that they do not want to keep their mask on or sanitise their hands as regularly as they should. Last but not least, acknowledge that we all need some time to get used to the “new normal”.
In conclusion, although Circuit Breaker has been lifted, the battle against COVID-19 is yet to be over. But remember, you are never alone. Stay safe, everyone!
Written by Geraldine.