Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Supporting Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder During COVID-19

Strategies for parents and caregivers

Many families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have been directly impacted by COVID-19 and are experiencing a disruption in services and available resources. Below are tips for parents and caregivers of individuals with ASD to increase understanding and coping during COVID-19.

Help support your child’s understanding of current circumstances with visual aids and social narratives.

  • Keep it simple: Explain to your child there is a virus that is making people sick. Doctors are working hard to keep everyone healthy. It is important to stay home more than usual.
  • Provide structure and routine: Maintain routines you have in place at home and implement new daily routines. Limit screen time, and transition from preferred activities with transition warnings.
  • Facilitate positive coping and calming strategies: Provide your child with a list of five calming choices they have established in their repertoire that they can choose from during anxious times. These may include physical exercise, deep breathing, accessing a favorite activity or listening to music.
  • When going out of the house with your child:
    • Explain expectations and rules for physical distancing.
    • Provide clear, concise instructions about maintaining personal space boundaries.
    • Provide step-by-step instructions for proper hand washing. Visual aids may be helpful to assist your child in learning the steps to proper hand washing.
    • Bring a comfort object. Consider bringing a favorite toy or preferred item for comfort

Monitor for changes in behavior. Children with autism often have difficulties expressing their emotions including fear, frustration and anxiety. They may communicate these emotions through changes in behavior. This may include increases in repetitive behaviors, increased behavioral outbursts and low frustration tolerance.

If you see significant behavioral changes in your child, additional support from a behavioral therapist, mental health or medical provider may be needed.

Contact Us

The Center for Behavioral Health at Johns Hopkins All Children’s in St. Petersburg, Florida, provides services in psychiatry, psychology, neuropsychology and pediatric developmental medicine. We serve families living throughout the Tampa Bay area.

For more information or to make an appointment, please call 727-767-8477.