It is yet another World Autism Awareness Day though, for most Autism families, it is just a regular day in their lives. However, as an Autism parent, I am thankful that at least once a year people think of Autism, and Autism awareness is setting in however slow the process may be. A lot of parents are struggling with their kids in this phase of lockdown. Kids with Autism struggle much more as their routines go for a complete toss and they find it difficult to fathom what is going on. I am sharing some strategies I used with my son Dhruv, hope it helps other families with Autism.
How to tackle the lockdown :
1) Explain why schools are closed – My son’s school closed on 11 March so I explained to him now schools are closed and will open only in June due to Corona Virus. It is important we are transparent with them and help them understand the situation and set their mind at ease. In Dhruv’s case, it also answered the question of why his music school and therapies are closed.
2) What is Corona Virus– the first point logically led to answering this question and I used a visual of Corona Virus and explained how it was dangerous and hence everything is closed and we cannot go out. Each child has a different level of comprehension hence it is important to simplify and explain in a manner your child gets it.
3) Why should one wash hands and how many times– Again a visual, a video, and writing about it helped Dhruv to understand why it is imperative he washes his hands and maintains hygiene. As he loves counting we make him count from 1000 to 1030 while washing his hands thus ensuring he washes his hands for 20 seconds.
4) Giving him predictability – I created a daily schedule and gave him some structure. Gopan and I started doing activities with him in the morning and evening. We also ensured he got enough breaks to do what he enjoyed which was listening to music apart from a mandated time for his music practice.
5) Teaching Lifeskills – Once the house help vanished, we involved Dhruv in all the chores at home right from taking out clothes from the washing machine, carrying the bucket, sorting clothes, sorting vegetables into bags, dusting the house, and more. He is learning life skills and doing OT at the same time.
6) Teaching Equality and Dignity of Labour – It is important that kids learn at an early age about equality and dignity of labor and the fact that all jobs can be done by men and women. He got used to seeing Gopan and I take turns in washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, making the beds, or cleaning the house.
7) Therapies At Home – Therapies are tools that help kids with autism by teaching them to self-regulate and develop crucial life- skills among other things. It is important parents empower themselves and understand what therapies are required for their children and do the same at home as currently, one cannot step out. Gopan and I take turns to do OT with Dhruv or to work on his comprehension and communication issues.
8) Maintaining an open channel of communication – In this situation of unpredictability and chaos even we adults feel anxious so it is obvious our kids will feel it more. We keep checking on him and ask him to share his thoughts. We discovered that journaling helps him to share his thoughts so we do that as an activity or when he is feeling overwhelmed.
9) Unleash your inner child – Apart from keeping him busy, we have loads of fun with him including group hugs, tickles, cuddles, laughter galore, and bedtime stories. We become kids ourselves and join him in whatever kiddie stuff he does and is having a blast enjoying his childhood, after all, kids grow up so fast! All these have helped in strengthening our bond with him and as a result, we have a happier settled child no matter what upheavals are happening around us.
Read another blog by the author Hope, Special Needs and Dhruv