​How to help an autistic person during the coronavirus outbreak

For people on the autistic spectrum sudden changes to daily routines can be bewildering and difficult to handle, and sometimes distressing.

The widespread disruption and changes to daily life caused by the coronavirus means our routines must change, which creates particular issues for people on the autism spectrum.

If you are supporting someone on the autism spectrum they need to be part of the conversation about ...coronavirus, we all need the facts about the virus from validated sources, but should try to avoid searching online for information as the internet can spread misinformation that might increase anxiety. At these stressful times it might be a good time to limit your exposure to the news to just once a day.

During these times of postponement a strategy for coping may be to make a list of any activities the person you support enjoys that have been cancelled, as an aide to remember to rebook them when the crisis subsides and life resumes to normality again.

Help the person you support to create a new daily schedule creating a new structure to their day which will help them to keep calm and busy.

A key daily adaption will be making the most of the food we have, so make an inventory of your food to help you to plan meals well in advance, giving the person you support plenty of notice of any changes in the food they are used to having, which may not be available right now.

With our new lives being limited to the home sensory considerations have never been more important. It is time to be extra sensitive to minimise the noise levels within your home when everyone is at home. Ear defenders can help with this.

A calming quiet space to retreat to is also vital to self-regulation, so help the person you support to create this space at home.

Sleep hygiene is especially important at this time. So it’s important to limit caffeine intake, exercise once a day, designate your bed for sleep at night time only, no screens an hour before bed, establish a bedtime routine which includes going to bed at the same time every day. Equally important is getting up at the same time every day to reinforce a daily routine.

Encourage the person you support to stay in touch with the people they are close to using the internet or phone which will make it easier to re-establish face-to-face connections when social distancing ceases, easing social anxiety.

Reassure the person you support that the extraordinary challenges we are facing are temporary and life will return to normal.

Scottish Autism - Coronavirus and your wellbeing

If you are experiencing a personal crisis, are unable to cope and need support, text Shout to 852558 or visit their website

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