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How to Navigate Autism and Social Distancing

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How to Navigate Autism and Social Distancing

Coronavirus has impacted everyone in some way; whether you've taken up being the home teacher, or have had to adapt to working from home. It's challenging for anyone having their normal routine disrupted, but for those with Autism, a change in their routine can be very unsettling and could lead to a sensory meltdown. 

Without knowing how long the impact of coronavirus will stay for, we explain how to navigate autism and social distancing. This informative guide will cover autism daily routine.

How Coronavirus affects Autism Routine and Structure

For those with autism, routine and structure is an important comfort to help them get through each day, and a disruption to this routine can be very upsetting. Going from daily activities and routines to practising social distancing can be difficult for anyone to grasp; whether that's self-isolating or following the Government rules to stay inside. However, when you are autistic, this can feel ten times harder.

As the Government guidelines alter each month in response to coronavirus, it's important to find ways to communicate with an autistic child on how these rules can fluctuate and what this means for their daily routine. These frequent changes can be very confusing for those with autism, especially when one week they're working from home and the next week their routine changes to being in school or having to navigate social distancing in public.  

Autistic Social Distancing in Public

By now, we're sure you've found ways to communicate with an autistic child as to why people around them are wearing a face mask. However, this alteration in their social environment could trigger an autistic tantrum or meltdown

Some may find autistic social distancing in public distressing if they were asked to wear a face mask as, for autistic people, a change in texture can lead to sensory overload, which can be very distressing. Depending on an individual's needs, there are alternatives for those with hidden disabilities when in public, such as the sunflower lanyard scheme or an exception card can be shown if needed. 

Our blog post which looks at the best ways to reduce sensory overload is a great resource for those looking for a guide on what sensory overload is, how sensory overload occurs and how to reduce sensory overload through the use of sensory products. 

Strategies for Autism and Social Distancing 

Finding ways to cope with social distancing can be difficult, but here are seven strategies to try whilst at home. 

1. Autism daily routine timetables

Everyone has had their daily routine affected in some way, shape or form throughout this year. For navigating autism and social distancing, concentrate on factors that you can control, such as sticking to a pre-COVID-19 routine as much as possible whilst at home. 

A great way to keep to a routine is to create a timetable which outlines the tasks for the day; this could also be a fun art project to decorate whilst at home. Keeping this routine the same, whether that's waking up at the same time each day, or eating certain foods at each mealtime will create a sense of familiarity that your child recognises, helping them to relax. A routine not only releases any anxiety, but it reduces the levels of stress an autistic person may feel. 

2. Practise autistic social distancing situations

Being out in public can feel quite daunting right now; these uncertain times can lead to a distressing environment for those with autism. Finding different ways to communicate with an autistic child so they follow social distancing guidelines at home will be beneficial when out in public. For instance, you could practise how far apart two metres is or what to do if someone feels to close to them. You could then practise these situations in a trusted, safe space, like an open local park and then in a closed space that is known to them, such as a supermarket. 

3. Communicate 'safety' at home

During the pandemic, it's normal to feel anxious or nervous when in public spaces. We know that government guidelines can change and that we may need to spend extended periods at home. However, it's important to communicate why autistic social distancing is important…which is to stay safe! That's not to say that public spaces are unsafe, but if you can reassure your child that whilst at home it's a safe space with as much of a normal daily routine as possible, then this may make the current situation less stressful and easier to cope with.  

4. Bubble tubes

Bubble tubes are one of our most popular sensory products as they offer a range of benefits which during uncertain times can help those with autism. Bubble tubes help to encourage a different way to communicate with an autistic child and create a relaxing and safe environment.

5. Soundboards

Perhaps you've struggled to find ways to communicate with an autistic child during the pandemic. If your child struggles with communication, a soundboard is a fun and interactive product that can encourage open communication. If a soundboard doesn't sound right for your child's needs, there are alternative sensory solutions to help with communication skills

6. Sensory rooms

During times of confusion and frustration, a sensory room offers many benefits.  Sensory stimulation leads to a positive impact of creating a calming and soothing atmosphere. Sensory rooms are not only great whilst at home, but they're often used in public spaces such as schools, libraries and airports to support those with autism and other sensory needs. 

7. Allow time for change

Change can impact us all differently, and adjusting to the changes we continue to face this year can be difficult. For instance, if you have a daily routine for someone with autism, extending the period allocated to each task will allow for more time to come to terms with any changes.

We hope that you now have a better understanding of how to navigate autism and social distancing. You may find our blog post on autism and multi-sensory rooms a useful read for how a sensory room can become a key part in autism routine and structure.

If you have any questions about how our sensory solutions can cater to different senses, abilities and needs, please don't hesitate to get in touch with our specialist team or have a read of our blog for further sensory advice.