Even after six months the corona crisis is still difficult for most of us, especially for children, teenagers and adults with ASD. They often do not understand why so much is different from what it used to be. It may still be okay to sing "happy birthday" twice while washing your hands, even though it's not your birthday at all. But what's the point of always being asked to greet your grandmother with a hug and a kiss and now you're not even allowed to visit her because she might get infected by you? On the other hand, it's suddenly okay that you pull the hoodie deep into your face and even hide behind a mask. Wasn't there the ban on masking not so long ago? But fortunately the classes at school are now smaller and less noisy and from time to time you can even study online in your quiet little room at home. Have the neurotypicals/normalos finally understood that one is safer in distance contacts and that the school noise is often unbearable? If only there wasn't this unpredictable mess and you had to change from one day to the next!
Depending on the understanding of the person with autism, the pandemic must be explained on different levels:
Concrete Ideas for explaining corona
Meanwhile illustrated brochures, songs, cartoons and film clips for young children and more severely challenged older individuals have been developed, such as films on washing hands, the virus and the danger of infection. Here are some examples:
Corona explained for children
Corona explained with stories and games (in different languages)
Children's song: I don't infect you - you don't infect me
If the level of understanding is sufficient, social stories can help.
All of this aims at typical children as well as children with autism. Masks, partitions, visual markings or spit guards are used in both regular and special facilities. Beyond that, however, special measures are necessary for our target group. Here are a few examples that refer to the additional burden of people with ASD due to the desire for predictability, as well as their communication problems and social difficulties:
Concrete ideas for predictability
What happens when - how long - with whom?
Calendars of various types, clocks, timers and schedules (real or on cell phones) can reassure people of all ages with ASS and thereby serve as a safety net.
Calendar entries can show on which days there is school and which subjects/teachers will be on. If regular classes are cancelled again, calender's are central to knowing in advance when you have to work at school, online or at home.
Where do I have to do what - how?
At home, in addition to time structures, fixed places to play or work have proven to be a good idea. Young children often react positively to play or work trolleys. School children can be visually shown which tasks are required by means of task stands with colored folders for different school subjects. This gives them a little more security in their homework.
Concrete ideas for relationship/ security circles
Who is safe?
During the last weeks our local supermarket, handed out small rubber figures that sometimes represented the Mickey Mouse family and sometimes Winnie-the-Pooh or other characters. These or similar figures or photos of individuals can be used to playfully illustrate rules of distance through relationship circles. Here the "I" stands in the safe green center with his family, indicating that you can still be close to each other. On the orange circle figures for persons you better meet at a safe distance with a mask can be placed. In the red zone characters can be arranged which you better avoid at the moment.
A Circle app gives the child/student an opportunity to personalize and
explore their relationships. Here additional colored circles are added with the option of either inserting photos or customized icons. Feelings are elaborated and behavior is briefly
animated. While this is mainly designed for teaching Social Safety and Sexual Abuse Prevention, it can well be used for teaching Corona-Safety.
Since placements are flexible and vary with individual conditions, a comparable visual aid can be created with photos of family, school and different professions and downloaded here.
Concrete ideas on thinking patterns and social behavior
Card games and online interaction games for children, teenagers and adults with autism have recently been developed on the topic of corona.
Joel Shaul has created learning material on thinking patterns and social behavior, most of which is available
as free downloads. We are currently translating this into German together with other volunteers and are looking forward to additional helpers.
Michelle Garcia Winner came up with the idea of judging one's own thinking under the aspect of "Flexible as a rubber band" or "Rigid as a stone". With this she obviously hits the nail on the head in the corona crisis. We all have to react like rubber bands during this time and adapt flexibly to the "new normality". Since this is especially hard for people with autism, developing flexibility is an important teaching target. We welcome additional ideas and feedback!