April 2, 2020 marks the 13th World Autism Awareness Day, a day recognized internationally to help raise public awareness of autism and also highlight April as World Autism Month. Federal agencies and multiple organizations continuously work together in efforts to raise awareness and address autism spectrum disorders to support individuals, their families, and communities.
With the current outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), this year’s observance may be different because of stay-at-home orders and as we practice social distancing, but you can still participate.
How Can I Participate?
To help support awareness and understanding of autism, on April 2, you can participate in the Light It Up Blue initiative simply by wearing something blue and sharing to your social media with #LightItUpBlue. This initiative started in 2010 and since then has been joined by hundreds of thousands around the world.
Autism and COVID-19
There are several factors to consider, particularly among those with autism spectrum disorder, their family members, and caretakers during this time. Disruptions have occurred with daily services, educational aides and other resources as schools close and many individuals are experiencing employment changes. Practicing social distancing is a must as well as ensuring you and your family are limiting exposure to illness. The following are suggestions to help you and your family navigate through these difficult changes.
School closures may likely result in disruptions to the services your child may receive at school. Talking to your child’s school about the type of closure they will be conducting and utilizing the Department of Education’s guidance may help you determine if the type of closure may allow certain services to still be provided. Additional actions that may help ease changes include:
- Try to mimic a schedule similar to the subjects and activities your child regularly does
- Engage in outside and family-based social activities
- Utilize the extra time to show and teach independent living skills (household chores such as dishes, folding laundry, etc.)
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also provides several tips for parents and caregivers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Stress management is particularly important during this time as stress, fear, and anxiety may be overwhelming for many. To help support you and your family’s overall mental health and stress levels, ensure you are getting plenty of sleep, exercise, and engaging in activities that you enjoy to promote relaxation. Even calling a friend or family to talk or FaceTime can help alleviate stress. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ensure appropriate supervision is available for your child and consider taking a walk or a drive.
To help support your child, take time to talk to them about the outbreak in a way they understand, but limit their media exposure as it may cause additional fear from misunderstanding. For additional information about talking to your child in situations as these, please see Talking to your child about tragedy: Six tips for the autism community .
Protecting Yourself and Your Family
The CDC recommends taking preventive measures to help increase protection for you and your family against illness. These include the following:
- Avoid exposure by staying about 6 feet away from others, especially if they are ill
- Regularly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Use hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol for times you are unable to wash your hands
- Stay home if you feel ill
- Use tissues to cover coughs and sneezes
- Disinfect commonly touched surfaces such as doorknobs, phones, rails, countertops and light switches
We are all in this together.