Children with autism, parents face unique challenges during pandemic – AutismSTEP
SALT LAKE CITY — The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the lives of nearly every American. But for many children with autism who thrive on routine, and their parents, the changes are causing additional, unique complications.
For Kim Deverall, every day is a battle keeping her 10-year-old son, Kai, safe and well.
With school canceled, she says she’s seen Kai, who is self-injurious, regress in his development.
He eats things he shouldn’t eat and is experiencing heightened anxiety due to the changes in his life, Deverall said, as well as showing aggression toward his family members.
“Even now, his anxiety is so high that he won’t even touch or walk on carpet or rugs,” the mom said.
Deverall said she spoke about her son’s behavior not to complain, but to bring awareness to what so many families are going through during the pandemic.
“Disruptions in schedules and physical distancing are placing pressure on many caregivers to juggle working from home with their children’s educational and therapy needs,” Pamela Dixon, clinical psychologist director for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, told the Deseret News.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 54 children in the U.S. has some form of autism, a nearly 10% increase since 2014 when 1 in 59 was diagnosed with autism. Experts attribute that growth to improvements in diagnosis.
Kai attends a public school for kids who have special needs. All the students there have an IEP, or individualized education program, based on how serious their needs are. The plan includes speech therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral and educational goals, among other things, Deverall said.
But since Utah schools closed with instruction continuing virtually, Deverall says Kai has been left behind while his older, neurotypical brother has continued to receive classwork online.
Kai’s parents have received general emails from his school advising them on what to do with their child every day.
“And even if they were to give me instructions, I am not a specialized special needs teacher, I’m not trained, I don’t have the skill set to teach him the way that he needs to be taught,” Deverall, of St. George, said.
“As a special needs parents, it is disheartening to know that it’s impossible to give our kids the therapy and specialized instruction that our kids need. I desperately want to, but can’t,” Deverall said.
Deverall said Kai asks every day using a speaking device if he can go to school. When he learns school isn’t happening, he asks if there’s school the next day. “And I don’t really have an answer for that that he can comprehend.”
The mother is also worried that Kai is at heightened risk for contracting COVID-19, as he doesn’t understand the need to wash his hands frequently and not to put objects in his mouth.
For 13-year-old Bryan Wood, the situation has been sunnier but hasn’t come without challenges, according to his dad.
“Change, especially if there’s one that he doesn’t expect, it’s usually very difficult for him,” Chris Wood said.
But Bryan loves software and computers, and so he’s enjoyed going to school “on his computer,” Wood said.
At Spectrum Academy, a charter school for kids with autism, some of Bryan’s teachers are also on the spectrum.
The school is “well set up to do online education, so he’s been able to understand what his assignments are and see his schedule for the day … and feels pretty proud of himself when he finishes.”
For full article, please visit: https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/5/10/21197122/utah-children-autism-parents-challenges-covid19-coronavirus-school