6 ways to help children with autism adapt to the new normal

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, but perhaps especially so for ASD kids.

autism and coronavirus pandemic

For children with autism, the abrupt changes created by the coronavirus pandemic are especially difficult. Trying to explain to your child why there is no school, why everyone has to stay home or why they can't go to their favorite places can add a level of confusion and frustration to an already stressful time.

Children on the autism spectrum often feel the non-verbal anxiety and stress of the world around them intensely. In this difficult time, modeling patience, creativity, resourcefulness and positivity can help the whole family. As difficult as it is to stay calm and positive in the middle of a pandemic, your mindset and interactions with your child can have a major effect on how they adapt to this big change.


Here are some ways to help children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families adapt to the sudden changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Create a schedule

If you're parenting a child with ASD you know how important daily schedules are. The cancellation of school and other activities is hard on everyone, but this can be an opportunity to give your child more input—their opinion is important. Consult your child's teacher for a sample schedule based on what they used at school, along with visuals and key words they use. Keep activity blocks short, no longer than 45 minutes per slot.

Even if you are bored with the schedule you created, trust me, your child is not. Sameness will not only keep things calm, but it helps your whole family feel more in control and structured during these difficult, long days.

2. Schedule in breaks (for them + you)

Provide lots of sensory, gross motor and physical breaks to get everybody up and moving. Add in bathroom breaks throughout the day to remind them to use the restroom. Schedule in breakfast, snacks and lunch. Also add in "brain breaks"—during this time it is okay for your child to engage in self-stimulatory behaviors and/or screen time. Brain breaks are times for both of you to take a break from one another and decompress.

3. Use a timer to help with transitions

To help your child transition from one activity to another, use the alarm on your phone so your child knows exactly when an activity is over.

Each morning, set all the transition times on the alarm on your phone. A few minutes before the timer goes off, give a verbal warning. For example, "In 2 minutes when the timer goes off, we will clean up math and start writing." Your child will learn quickly that when the alarm goes off the current activity ends and a new activity will begin.

Ask your child's teacher if they sing a transitional song such as the "Clean Up" song or say a transitional phrase such as, "All Done." Replicate that during your transitions.

4. Set goals you can achieve

Creating a home learning schedule for a special needs child from scratch can be quite overwhelming, so keep your goals simple, and base them on whatever goals are in your child's IEP (Individualized Education Program) or service plan. Reach out to your child's teacher for worksheets or activities that help support their goals.

Also, create a personal goal that you would like your child to accomplish during the next two to four weeks. Whether it is learning to write their name or learning to dress themselves, focus on life skills, and you will be amazed at what your child can learn while they are at home.

5. Take care of you

Do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself. It may be waking up early and taking a walk around the block, drinking that extra cup of coffee, or binge watching a show after the bedtime routine. When creating your daily schedule, add in breaks for yourself such as sitting outside for five minutes and taking a breath, looking on social media, even eating a piece of chocolate. If you are not taking care of you, you will become ineffective when working with your child.

I also highly recommend taping "Parent Prompt" cards throughout your house with positive sayings like, "You got this," "You are doing great!" "Breathe." Write down any positive statements that will get you through your day and put them throughout your house where you will see them. It may sound simple, but these visual affirmations can make a big difference on a tough day. Both you and your child are depending on your strength right now—so do whatever it takes for you to support your own emotional well-being.

6. Make a ritual of Fun Friday

Everyone enjoys a Fun Friday! With all the unpredictable day-to-day changes, it is time to create some predictability in your life. Fridays are consistent and are not going anywhere. Make Fridays a fun day by having a half-day of learning and using the other half for a movie day, to make cookies or pizza, play games or take a walk together. Choose activities that would be fun for you and your family to do together, and Fun Friday will give both you and your children something to look forward to.

With all of the many changes within our communities brought on by the pandemic, it is hard to predict what tomorrow will bring. Your children are depending on you as parents to provide some normalcy in their lives. However, it is just as important to take care of YOU during this time. If that means that your child is having a little more screen time than normal or if they are engaging in more self-stim behavior, that is okay. You are human and it is all right for you to take a breather. Remember, we are all in this together.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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