BETHLEHEM, PA - One in 54 children will be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Oftentimes, these children rely on routine, but with everyday life interrupted and normalcy put on hold by COVID-19, adapting can be difficult for these children and their families.
"They want to know what’s happening, how come I’m not going to occupational therapy every Monday at 5 o’clock; what’s happening to that? How come I can’t go to my swim lessons on Saturdays at 10:30? They’re used to these activities that are key to helping them self regulate and also giving them important entrees into meeting other people and working on their social skills," explains Karin Donahue, "So it’s really been very very tough and a lot of kids on the autism spectrum are having a tough time transitioning to learning online. "
Donahue is a Psychology professor from Northampton Community college in Bethlehem. She says, resources for parents with autistic children at home are more important than ever. Her new book, “Right from the Start: A Practical Guide for Helping Young Children with Autism” breaks down practical strategies to help children manage their emotions and behaviors, especially during this chaotic time for everyone.
"We know that folks respond well to predictability and that helps to decrease people’s anxiety and it helps to increase their ability to self regulate, control emotions and behaviors. So we want to add predictability in very simple and clear ways," Donahue tells PBS39 News Tonight Reporter, K.C. Lopez, "For example, making out a schedule. We can just pull out a piece of paper or whiteboard and we can write down what the schedule is for today; what are some things we are going to do this morning, then lunch and things we’re going to do this afternoon." Donahue explains, "the point is let’s make a schedule so the kid can see okay here are some things I am going to do. This is going to help make up my day and now I know what to expect because when kids don’t know what to expect, that’s really upsetting."
Donahue says with the right techniques, parents can help autistic children lay a positive foundation that will enable them to be confident and successful in any environment.
"We’re looking at some of these struggles that kids have not only with self regulation but with social skills and playing and then here are some really useful, effective strategies that anyone can use."