Lesson: Covid-19 Masks Exception For Carers – Helping Kids With Autism Cope With The Virus: An Initiative By Samuel Exall
The coronavirus pandemic is keeping children and parents indoors. This is to stop the spread of the disease and to keep everyone from others. Lockdown has most likely changed your routines and habits that you are used to. Adjusting a routine is very hard for everyone. This is especially for kids with autism who have challenges learning and adjusting to a new environment. Helping your child adjust and get what is going on is an important step at helping them cope with the situation. With the right information, your autistic kid can grow and thrive even in this time of covid-19.
Kids with autism have been excluded from wearing masks in public spaces. Unfortunately, not many people know about this exception and thus, children with autism as well as their carers are being harassed for not wearing Covid-19 masks in shopping malls and other public spaces.
Since the government has not put up enough awareness on carers exception on wearing face masks, many of them are being victimized for the same. The government was in the view that carers of autistic children should not wear face masks for they not only scare the children, but also make communication difficult. Unfortunately, members of the public are not aware of the same and thus, end up harassing these carers.
It is out of this that the carers are afraid of going out with their autistic children and this is causing a lot of inconvenience on their part. Autistic children have special needs and have to be taken to hospitals for checkup and treatment. Sometimes, parents have to use buses and trains to reach hospitals. And although they are exempt from wearing masks, the personnel and other passengers at the terminus are not aware of this and thus, harass carers for not covering their faces.
Recently, Samuel Exall started a petition asking the government to increase awareness on mask exception for carers. Clearly, the government hasn’t done enough on the matter. Sam Exall is also urging members of the public to help him in this noble course by signing the petition.
What to tell an autistic child about coronavirus
Kids with autism have a problem in learning and grasping new ideas. As a result, they may not be able to understand what is going on in the world. Also, these children do not know how to express their frustrations. Therefore, it is important to talk to your child about covid-19 in a manner that they will understand. Be honest, clear and direct so that your child can understand what you are talking about. For example, you can tell them ‘coronavirus is a virus that can infect your body and make you very sick. However, there are some things that you should do to avoid getting infected’.
Also, explain that many children are attending school from home, parents are working away from offices and social activities have been postponed until a later date. In addition, all social events have been cancelled. Explain to your child therefore that they cannot be able to go to the amusement park, museum, Local Park or travel to your favorite holiday destination until coronavirus pandemic is over. Family gatherings will also be put on hold until further notice.
In the meantime, you have to train your child to take the following steps:
- Wash hands often
- Teach them not to touch their eyes, mouth and nose.
- Stay at least 2 meters away from strangers
Give your autistic child a chance to ask questions. However, do not divulge more information than necessary. The child may become oversensitive on the issue.
How to make your child understand
Children with autism require extra support to understand what is going on around them. They also require special attention to grasp what is required of them in these situations. To help your autistic kid understand what covid-19 is all about, you need to turn to social stories. The good thing is that many social stories have pictures to go with them as this helps them understand what they are supposed to do to avoid getting infected with the virus. With the stories, the child can learn:
- Washing hands, wearing masks, and how to stay safe in the wake of covid-19
- Staying 6 feet away from people they do not live with
- New routines
- Learning from home
The best way to go about this is to master how your child’s learns fast and go by those proven strategies.
One of the things that can help your autistic child adjust is routines. Therefore, during the coronavirus pandemic, set as many routines as possible for your child to follow. Dedicate specific times for sleeping, waking up, having breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, it is advisable to include activities such as studying, exercise and playtime in the routine. And to help your child stick to the routines, you can use timers and alarm clocks.
The importance of routine is that it prevents anxiety that results from things changing too often.
How to keep your child calm
When scared, children with autism will present behaviors such as tantrums and flapping. However, there are some things that you can do to calm your child. For example you can try:
- Ding crafts together
- Talking to your child
- Playing with the child
- Writing stuff
- If your child does not speak a lot, use verbal devices
You can also try watching a video, listening to music or doing exercises. All these can help calm a child with anxiety. During this time also, you should avoid exposing them to depressing things such as horror and war movies.
If your autistic child has challenges during this pandemic, you can always seek the services of a learning specialist who will help them cope better. Each autistic child is different and if you notice changes in their sleeping and eating habits, you should take an appropriate action. An overly worried child may be a sign of anxiety.
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