NewsHillsborough County


Local mother, doctor shares advice for helping those with autism cope during pandemic

Autism prevalence now 1 in 40 US kids, study estimates
Posted at 12:23 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 12:23:29-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- For families taking care of children or adults with autism during COVID-19, the change in routine can be a challenge.

Dr. Melissa Bailey, a licensed clinical psychologist, knows this all too well.

“It has been really difficult,” says Dr. Bailey.

Dr. Bailey specializes in autism but also has two children of her own on the spectrum.

“I have one child who’s 17, who’s higher functioning and my daughter, who is 15, is much lower functioning," says Dr. Bailey.

The lack of routine has caused several melt downs in her family.

“In my practice it’s been incredibly difficult for a lot of the children who are high functioning," explains Dr. Bailey.

Online learning also presents an entirely different set of challenges.

“With the distance learning they get overwhelmed by seeing all of assignments at once on the platform,” says Dr. Bailey.

But there is hope. Dr. Bailey recommends structure at home because that's most important to ease anxiety.

“Even in the house, I’m telling parents of kids with autism, I’m telling to put a scheduled a visual schedule for the kids so they can see that and keep up a routine," Dr. Bailey advises.

Plus, try to make sure they're eating at the same time. If you're going for a walk put that on the schedule. Dr. Bailey says adding things to a calendar will keep those with autism from fixating on what's going to happen next.

“They thrive much better when they have a routine and they know what’s going to happen next. So they don’t do well with changes," says Dr. Bailey.

Autism Speaks put together a great resource page for parents. Click here for more information.