Adapting to New Normal Rules and Routines
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to adopt new routines as a means of keeping ourselves and our families safe. Ensuring that our young ones adopt these same habits can be a challenge, though, particularly for parents of children with special needs. Danielle Lambert, a BCBA at Gateway’s Bingham Farms clinic, addresses this topic in the latest issue of Metro Parent, sharing useful insights and advice for families.
First, Danielle observes that simple repetition can go a long way in adjusting to a new habit, noting how comfortable her clients have become with having their temperature checked when they arrive to the clinic. However, more active and direct teaching might be needed when it comes to other types of rules, like maintaining physical distance from others. Danielle recommends the use of social stories for this purpose. An advantage of a social story is that it can be individualized to the child’s everyday life, and the relevant information can be presented in whatever format is most accessible to the child, whether that is through words or pictures or both. Parent and child can read the social story together and then ensure comprehension through fun “pop quizzes,” role playing at home and, eventually, practicing in public.
One of the more challenging routines for children to adopt is wearing a mask. This is especially true for those with sensory sensitivities, as is the case for many children with autism. Danielle highlights the importance of starting small. It may be an unrealistic expectation for some children to go from never having their face covered before to suddenly keeping a mask on during each outing. In such cases, the key is for the child to slowly become comfortable through incremental practice at home. Parents might start with just having the mask near the child, before encouraging the child to touch the mask, then hold it by the loops, then loop it over each ear, and so on. This can be a gradual process that requires many intermediate steps. But taking these small steps, and providing encouragement and positive reinforcement along the way, can be the best way for many young ones to get comfortable with this important safety measure without being overwhelmed.
For more of Danielle’s advice on this topic, you can view the full article here. We hope you find this post helpful. Follow our future blog and social media posts for more information and updates. Take care!