Back-To-School: COVID & Autism


Friday, August 20th 2021, 6:25 am
By: Jordan Dafnis


OKLAHOMA CITY -

The pandemic caused issues for millions of people. It was especially tough for those on the autism spectrum. 

"I think in the beginning of the pandemic they took it a little hard because they got used to being around their teachers and their peers every day and then it stopped all of a sudden," said Brittany Johnson, the mother of two boys on the spectrum. 

The Oklahoma Autism Center is a local organization that has been working with student that are on the spectrum to help the have access to high-quality services in their local communities. 

During the pandemic, the center was forced to take their services online, which can cause issues with communication. 

"I think there are certain aspects that really do require face to face so we are learning just about what we can do online versus what we really need to do in our office," said Dr. Kathryn Moore, a licensed psychologist and the Co-director of the Oklahoma Autism Center. 

While virtual learning created challenges, it also gave some parents, especially those in rural parts of the state, benefits.  The move to virtual gave parents access to services they didn’t know were available to them.   

While the program is very helpful for students, it requires parents to take charge of the hands-on learning students need. 

"Patience, I think it was really a struggle for me because I am with my children all of the time," said Johnson. 

Johnson said she found strategies that helped her boys understand what was going on around them. That worked well for her children who she said are looking for ways to show kindness but maintain a safe distance. 

"Rather than saying no don't do that we just give them options like hey give somebody a thumbs up, a wave, a wink, just like let's keep it separated," said Johnson. 

The Oklahoma Autism Center has shared some ways to help children adjust to the changes the pandemic has created. 

"We like to use strategies that are evidence based and recommend things like visual schedules, pictures can be used to kind of make personalized routines," said Moore. 

While this may seem like a lot for parents the experts recommend one thing, relax. You can do this as long as you take everything one step at a time. That also means reaching out for help when things get tough. 

"Just do what works for you and the best that you can to keep your family safe," said Johnson. 

And know there is a community here to help you. 

Some COVID-19 Resources for parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder or related disabilities include: 

https://www.autismcenterok.org/covid-19/ 

https://www.nacd.org/how-to-teach-your-child-with-special-needs-to-wear-a-mask/ 

Signs your child may have Autism spectrum disorder: 

https://nationalautismassociation.org/resources/signs-of-autism/