We are a specialist team of trained Teachers and Teaching Assistants who work with children and young people with a diagnosis of Autism. Normally, we work with young people and their families, and support staff in nurseries and mainstream schools. During the school closures, we would like to offer support to families by sharing resources, ideas and advice during this difficult time.
As a team we feel that the number one priority at this time is the emotional wellbeing of your child or young person on the autism spectrum, as well as that of your family.
Please do not feel any pressure to ‘educate’ your child, unless this is helpful and what you want to do. Focus on meeting their emotional and sensory needs, which may include giving them breaks to spend time alone, perhaps with sensory or special interest activities.
Contact us with any specific queries by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a very different time for us all; our daily lives have been suddenly and unexpectedly changed due to Coronavirus. People on the autism spectrum may find this more difficult to manage, as changes to their usual routines and the increased unpredictability in their lives can cause increased levels of anxiety and distress. The following suggestions may be helpful in reducing such anxieties.
1. Structure and Routine
The more structured and predictable the day can be the better for reducing anxiety. A repeated daily routine and visual schedule will allow a young person to know what is going to happen over the course of the day, this reduces anxiety. Schedules can be written or pictorial. Remember to tick off tasks as they are completed or remove the picture of the completed task and put it in a ‘finished’ box or envelope.
Some children may struggle to manage a whole or half day schedule. Sometimes a ‘First Then’ visual is useful, where a task or activity is first completed and then followed by a second activity that the child finds particularly motivating
2. Visual Supports
Pictorial or text prompts and instructions are useful because, unlike spoken works, they are permanent and consistent e.g. this hand-washing routine from Widgit Symbols.
3. Communication and language
When you are feeling anxious, your ability to listen to and process spoken language is reduced. Generally the following is helpful:
• Reduced language when giving instructions, try to use key words only e.g. “TV finished. Now tea.”
• Give your child a longer time to process and understand what you’ve said; we all need longer to process when we feel anxious.
• Support spoken words with visual cues such as gestures, pictures, lists.
Some young people will have specific advice around speech, language and communication from the Speech and Language Therapy Team which should be followed as usual.
4. Reducing Demands
Stress and anxiety may make normally accepted demands impossible to cope with. Reducing the difficulty or duration of a task may help to avoid overload and meltdowns. The following may be helpful:
• Learn, rehearse and practice relaxation techniques when everyone is feeling calm e.g. this breathing exercise from Twinkl. www.twinkl.co.uk/offer and enter code UKTWINKLHELPS
• Spend time on special interests.
• Spend time away from the news.
• Spend time having fun both on your own and with others.
5. Better understanding about what is going on
There are lots of social stories explaining about coronavirus.
Carol Gray has written a social story called ‘Pandemics-and-the-Coronavirus’
The National Autistic Society website is a good source of advice and information about autism.
There are also some more specific advice regarding the Coronavirus at:
All children feel better if they have a routine (we all do!). This does not need to be rigid. Get up and get dressed every morning. Make a little plan for the day. Try to find some independent activities for your child so that you can have 5 minutes to yourself.
1. Rotate toys
Put some toys away then re-introduce them to keep everything interesting. You could have different toys available for different days of the week.
2. Special Interests
Lots of children with autism have special interests that make them feel safe and happy. Let them have time with their special interests!
3. Messy Play
Lots of children love messy play, make sure you are feeling resilient enough to cope with the mess. It helps children with sensory needs.
4. Fun with Playdough
Make playdough (you can add different smells such as cinnamon, peppermint, or sparkle with glitter) For instructions on how to make play dough, follow this link.
5. Baking, lots of non-cook ideas are good such as:
Icing and decorating biscuits (buy a packet of digestives or rich tea)
Make fruit kebabs or smoothies.
Chocolate crispies (adult to melt the chocolate)
6. People Games (these will help develop joint attention)
Play Peekaboo, horsey riding, chasing games, hide and seek, tickles, bubbles, balloons, scarves (throwing and catching).
Songs and Rhymes
Sing action songs and leave pauses for your child to vocalise or make a movement to keep you singing. You could try:
‘Row Row Your Boat’,
‘Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes’
‘Round and Round the Garden’
7. Quiet Time/ Sensory Time
Find a quiet cosy corner and have some quiet time together, don’t talk, maybe turn the lights off, quiet calming music helps some children to feel regulated.
Use some soothing sensory toys/favourite toys.
Try some of the relaxation for children videos, there are lots on You Tube.
If you have a big cardboard box let your child climb inside. Try placing a blanket over the dining table and crawl inside. It can become a quiet space or a fun spaceship!
Look at books together. Read books together. If your child likes you reading stories but you need to do something else for a few minutes record yourself reading onto a tablet.
9. Play Outside
Children with sensory differences often feel better regulated when they can play outside. Ideas to try:
We are all likely to have feelings of anxiety from time to time. These resources are intended as ideas to reduce these feelings when they do come. If we try and make them part of our daily routine they may also prevent us from feeling anxious.
1. Yoga/ mediation
Yoga and meditation can help calm our bodies and mind and are great for reducing anxiety.
There are lots of free yoga classes online, a good one for children is Cosmic Kids Yoga
there are also lots of guided meditations online and available as meditation Apps for your mobile or tablet. Headspace is a meditation app that has a free resource to use at this time.
2. BooksThere are lots of books that address the subject of worries and anxiety, many of them that are available in video form online.
- ‘The Huge Bag of Worries’
- ‘I’m worried'3. Sharing your worries with someoneYou could make a worry box and your child could post their worries into it.
Or you could make a worry doll for them to keep.
Or encouraging your child to stay in touch with friends and family with letter writing or skype/ phone calls.
4. Breathing exercises
Controlled breathing can help the calm the body physically and this helps the mind to calm down too.
Hand breathing is an easy exercise just using your hand.
Stop, breathe think kids is a free app with lots of techniques on it.
Blowing bubbles/ pinwheels focus the mind on breathing and make interesting things to look at.
Twinkl have some mindful colouring pinwheel templates to try
Sign up at www.twinkl.co.uk/offer and enter code UKTWINKLHELPS
5. Mindful activities
Mindfulness is about focusing in onto the here and now. There are lots of activities that can help with this e.g. colouring mindfulness breathing exercises.
Grounding activities can be helpful in focusing the mind back to the here and now.
Taking time out to look after yourself when things are uncertain is really important. This could be something as simple as having a bubble bath or spending time on something you love doing.
Taking time out to look after yourself if important. Encourage your child to share their worries so they can be addressed. Don’t forget to talk to someone about your own worries too. Find what works for you and your child- there is no right or wrong.