The Coronavirus and Helping Your Child with Autism Deal with the Change in Routine

Huge impact on our lives

The Coronavirus has had a major impact in lots of ways, not the least of which is trying to explain to our children with autism what’s going on, and helping them to adjust to the changes in the schedule, i.e. not going to school, being watched by grandma one day, and a sitter the next.

What to do?

In terms of explaining the ‘virus’; it would appear reasonable to explain that a strain of the “flu” is ‘going around’ and we’re taking precautions. In terms of providing reassurance, please see my prior post on the subject, and recognize that youths typically either don’t get the virus or experience a very mild reaction; so, that’s encouraging and worth noting to your kiddo.

So, you’re left to deal with the changes in routine.

You’ve been through this many times when there is a snow day or unexpected change in your schedule. This time, however, the change will continue a bit longer. This extra time gives you the opportunity to establish a new routine. The key is to prepare, to the extent possible, clear and specific schedules presented on a white-board or using a visual schedule for younger children. These schedules can be daily, or weekly; whatever you think is best.

Make if fun, provide extra comfort, and incorporate items from the daily routine

It would be understandable if you give extra hugs and reassurance, as well as some extra use of the iPad to help calm the emotions. You may feel like you’re over-indulging, but sometimes that’s necessary. Try to keep the routine consistent in terms of the same order as would occur on weekends and other days off. However, you may want to increase structure a bit compared to the weekend schedule (given the length of time of this hiatus) but, no worries, establish the routine in written or visual form, and have each caretaker carry-out the routine in a predictable fashion.

To prepare for the next day, you’ll have the schedule already prepared, and use face-time with grandma (or teacher, or babysitter…) telling your child how much fun they’re going to have, and the activities in which they will be involved. Use the written or visual schedule to prepare for transitions, and allow for extra time knowing that these transitions may be accompanied by some emotion and resistance. A sticker chart with extra rewards may be helpful in that respect.

Hope that helps

These are trying times, for you and your kids alike. As always, don’t hesitate to reach-out with any questions, and please share your success stories on my Facebook page. God bless.

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Dr. John Carosso
Licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist at Community Psychiatric Centers
Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working through his own practice, and in residential, inpatient, outpatient, school, and home settings. He is a partner and Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).

Dr. Carosso, who holds a Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavioral Analysis in Special Education, has conducted more than 20,000 evaluations on children with autism, learning problems and dyslexia, attention-deficit, trauma, depression, bipolar, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and related difficulties. He has supervised dozens of clinical teams and regularly provides consultation to organizations, agencies, and parents at 6 office locations in four counties counties. Dr. Carosso also has presented at regional conferences, served on the advisory boards of local autism societies, and has served for over 10 years as an evaluator and expert witness in child welfare cases.

He produces a video series, "Dr. C's Morning Minute," that provides helpful strategies for effectively managing childhood autism, ADHD, and behavioral, emotional and learning issues. Dr. Carosso formerly co-hosted the Live weekly PCNC cable television program "Community Psychiatric Centers Presents", targeting child mental health issues, and was a regular guest on various talk shows, including "Night Talk", discussing childhood issues and related current events.
Dr. John Carosso

Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working through his own practice, and in residential, inpatient, outpatient, school, and home settings. He is a partner and Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com). Dr. Carosso, who holds a Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavioral Analysis in Special Education, has conducted more than 20,000 evaluations on children with autism, learning problems and dyslexia, attention-deficit, trauma, depression, bipolar, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and related difficulties. He has supervised dozens of clinical teams and regularly provides consultation to organizations, agencies, and parents at 6 office locations in four counties counties. Dr. Carosso also has presented at regional conferences, served on the advisory boards of local autism societies, and has served for over 10 years as an evaluator and expert witness in child welfare cases. He produces a video series, "Dr. C's Morning Minute," that provides helpful strategies for effectively managing childhood autism, ADHD, and behavioral, emotional and learning issues. Dr. Carosso formerly co-hosted the Live weekly PCNC cable television program "Community Psychiatric Centers Presents", targeting child mental health issues, and was a regular guest on various talk shows, including "Night Talk", discussing childhood issues and related current events.

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