Autism & COVID-19; www.sarasautismsite.com. Pederson (2020) reports from the Lance Psychiatry Journal that persons on the autism spectrum are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications. The reasons are several, first they tend to have immune disorders and other co morbidities; plus their routines are severely disrupted. Added to that, patients may have communication and expression difficulties which prevent them from comprehending the extremeness of the situation.
If providers are needed, parents and caregivers must keep calm, facilitating communication and managing out-of-the-box thinking, such as using TelaDoc to connect with clinicians. Or, asking to wait in the car and texting you when the doctor is ready to see you; doing any Check-In online. Also, asking to allow the parent and caregiver to accompany the autistic person throughout the visit process.
< My Thoughts > “,,,allow the parent and caregiver…”
Connecting with new routines, strange environments, persons in masks and gowns, can bring on expected undesirable behavioral responses. Even some behaviors you’ve never seen before. Try to keep a ‘bag of tricks’ handy – communication devices- Apps, iPad, tablets, music with earphones, weighted vest or lap pad, sensory (sight, sound, touch, smell & taste) toys, and/or a favorite cold drink. And of course, any meds needed so as not to miss a dosage if you are detained in the office or in travel. Many times we have scheduled early appointments, only to find ourselves traveling home in heavy 5pm traffic, in spite of our careful planning; due to doctor overbooking, sending us somewhere for tests, or just playing the ‘waiting’ game. When Sonny sees the ‘Toy Story’ lunchbox, this signals several things – we might be going to the park for lunch; we have plenty of goodies to last us; we are out for the long haul. This mindset helps him stay calm until it’s obvious that we are not having fun! More reason to have his favorite Vid, App, or familiar whatever on a never-ending loop.
This is the perfect storm of challenges for parents and caregivers, clinicians, and nearby observers who are convinced they are seeing a ‘very spoiled child’. Maybe it’s time to advertise “Autism Onboard.”
Pedersen, T. (2020). Meeting the Needs of Autistic Individuals During COVID-19; Retrieved online from – psychcentral.com/