Free Online Resources for Families Living With Autism During the COVID-19 Shutdown
It’s truly a difficult and uncertain time we live in.
Personal and professional lives have been disrupted, schedules have changed, schools and businesses have closed indefinitely.
And perhaps worst of all is that there’s still no way to know when this will end or what will happen once this blows over.
Will things go back to normal? Will there be a significantly new normal to adjust to?
In the meantime, life quarantined at home in isolation might prove to be incredibly difficult for some of us.
For individuals with developmental needs and their families and caretakers, the stress and difficulties are happening on an even higher scale. Many parents had to become educators overnight, and it certainly isn’t an easy task. It’s all the more challenging for parents who are struggling to find the right resources to effectively teach and support their children with disabilities while staying at home.
To help, we have compiled into a comprehensive list of useful tools and resources that you can refer to while navigating autism with the backdrop of the COVID-19 shutdown. This list aims to simplify parents’ and caregivers’ day-to-day management, reduce stress and anxiety, and hopefully give some structure to their daily routine during the pandemic.
These resources are meant to provide simple and actionable strategies that you can implement in your home to help support your children’s learning and development.
Let’s get to it.
Free Resources for Managing Autism During Quarantine
Take advantage of the wide array of webinars and online courses from industry experts and clinical professionals to help you navigate through this challenging time.
University of Arkansas professor Dr. Peggy Schaefer-Whitby, along with experts across the state, hosts a Three-part webinar series to assist parents and caregivers who are struggling to educate children with disabilities during the imposed home quarantine.
These free webinars tackle carefully-selected topics including Managing Stress and Building Routines, The Importance of Play and Teaching Life Skills, and Managing Behavior and Discipline. Anyone can participate in the webinars for free. Plus, each session is recorded so you can watch them based on your availability if you miss one.
Head to the Center for Exceptional Families to sign up for the next webinar or to watch the previous recordings.
The Council for Exceptional Children continuously supports students, parents, families, and professionals in their efforts to apply good teaching practices amidst the on-going pandemic. With the guidance of veteran online instructors, they hosted a webinar that shares strategies and tools that aids a smooth transition to virtual learning.
In partnership with the Division for Early Childhood (DEC), they’ve also held online instructions to find out what the child’s needs are, develop participation-based goals, and provide support-based visits through telecommunications.
Finally, join industry leaders to learn how special education administrators are navigating the crisis and meeting the needs of families and students with ASD.
The Autism Research Institute provides numerous resources to help families with ASD cope during the pandemic. Watch their Support for Individuals with ASD webinar to learn skills for handling disagreements between family members and get resources for virtual social interactions. They provide emotional support for individuals experiencing anxiety and autism, mindfulness techniques, and ideas for managing stress.
Their Coronavirus Impact session discussed how to talk to children with ASD who are experiencing difficulties due to changing schedules, altered plans, and disruption.
The Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (DDBP) of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital created a virtual outreach series to support families through the pandemic. This includes instructional videos on sensory activities for your child’s day, visual tools to increase kids’ comprehension and on-task behavior, and healthy sleep habits for children with developmental abilities.
Blogs and News Articles
Read up on real-life tips and expert advice from the community’s professional organizations.
Autism Speaks consistently shares information to help people with ASD and their families who are directly impacted and struggling to cope with these uncertain times. Read their post on what the community needs to know about COVID-19, which includes CDC recommendations and important talk points when discussing frightening events. Check out their tips on how to cope with disrupted family routines and how to manage your children with ASD during social distancing and isolation.
The American Psychological Association provides advice for caregivers of children with disabilities, including how to communicate effectively, prioritize self-care, and reassure your child.
Similarly, Psychology Today shares research and clinical practices on how to properly explain the current health situation to children with autism.
Through the digital health community The Mighty, Dr. Liz Matheis gives a few ideas on how to handle your child’s disrupted routine. She provides amazing insight for anyone caring for an individual with ASD.
The Center for Discovery shares ideas for indoor and outdoor activities that families can participate in together. From decorating a shoebox and having a bake-off challenge to making sensory balls and pillows and having game nights, you can safely (and enjoyably) do these during this time of social distancing and isolation.
Likewise, News10 Tampa compiled tips from local experts on things you can do at home, such as dealing with playdates and boredom, to help kids with ASD navigate the confusion and unfamiliarity of the coronavirus quarantine.
If you’re looking for a more interactive experience where you can get instant answers from experts, check out these video resources.
Child Mind Institute holds two Facebook Live video chats daily –10:00AM and 4:30PM ET – where expert clinicians answer questions on parenting during the coronavirus. You can also view recordings from previous days, where they discuss promoting self-sufficiency, sculpting the new normal, and keeping kids engaged.
The Autism of Society of America launched an FB Live Coronavirus Information Series to provide COVID-19 news relevant to the autism community. Held every Thursday, this weekly broadcast features expert advice on continuing school work and education at home, mental health, and preventing and spotting psychiatric crisis.
In partnership with Autism Speaks, Autism Certification Center (ACC) offers free limited-time access to evidence-based educational material that provides practical strategies for people on the spectrum, their families, and their communities. From now until June 1st, you can make use of over 30 hours of video-based courses that cover tactics you can apply today and in the future.
To help ease your sessions with your children, here are some modules, slideshows, social stories. and visual aids to which you can easily download and refer.
The Autism Research Institute shares social videos and priming videos to help individuals on the spectrum to learn about proper hygiene, social distancing, coronavirus symptoms, and potential medical examinations. To make it a more fun, dynamic, and engaging experience, they’ve provided decks and printable handouts for each topic.
Entitled Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times, the Autism Focused Intervention Resources and Modules (AFIRM) released a COVID-19 toolkit that outlines seven support strategies that are designed to meet the unique needs of individuals with ASD. These include examples and ready-made resources to help parents and caregivers implement these tactics quickly.
Additionally, the National Autism Associationhas compiled numerous teaching tools for kids and tips for parents and special care providers. These include visual tools for educating kids on what COVID-19 is. It also has a downloadable toolkit containing resources to help caregivers prevent and respond to wandering incidents while at home.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10-10:30 AM, Claire Seefried of the Els for Autism Foundation provides a virtual storytime with augmentative and alternative communication. It highlights high-frequency words using communication supports. Following the story, a deck of the core vocabulary words and links to extension activities are discussed. This program is highly beneficial for parents who are first-timers to the home-based special education environment.
The University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities has curated resources for special educators, therapists, and families with individuals who have developmental disabilities. These cover a wide array of topics including hand washing, social distancing, staying safe and healthy, talking with children, and learning about the virus.
Finally, the Howard County Autism Society shares a compelling social story to help children understand why they are learning from home and what they can do to stay happy, healthy, and safe during this health crisis.
The Bottom Line
During these challenging, uncertain, and unprecedented times it’s essential that you (along with other parents and families living with autism) realize that there are so many resources and strategies that you can use to ease up your teaching and day-to-day responsibilities.
The autism community is standing beside you.
If you need guidance or advice about COVID-related topics for people with disabilities, there are a lot of support systems you can turn to: special education professionals, medical experts, the autism spectrum community, and fellow parents or family members. Keep in mind that we all have the same goal: to provide a safe and nurturing learning environment for individuals with special developmental needs.
Remember, we’re in this together, and you’re never alone.