What Social Distancing Is Like For Parents Of Kids With Autism

Catherine Pearson
(Esther Moreno Martinez/EyeEm via Getty Images)

Millions of children in the United States and around the world are suddenly home from school and largely stuck inside because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has thrust countless families into new and stressful schedules.

For parents of the roughly 1 in 54 children in the United States who have been diagnosed with autism, school closures and stay-at-home orders have brought with them a unique set of challenges. They’re helping kids who so often thrive on routine adjust to a new day-to-day that is changing by the minute. And in addition to overseeing remote learning, many caregivers are also making sense of what it looks like for their children to receive certain therapies and services remotely. 

“We have never experienced anything like this before,” Dr. Malia Beckwith, section chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Jersey, told HuffPost. “It really is unprecedented, and it’s definitely a challenge.”

Children on the spectrum tend to thrive on routines, structure and “social practice,” Beckwith said, which makes this time extremely challenging for those kids and their parents, who in many ways have to now act as teacher, therapist and mom or dad. But she hopes it can also be a source of comfort. 

“It’s really about getting that new routine established, and once you have it, I think there’s a lot of hope for how children and families will be able to do,” Beckwith said. 

HuffPost spoke with three parents about what it has been like to parent while practicing social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic and what they’re thinking about as they look forward. 

“It’s like our whole ‘village’ has just ... stopped.”

I have two girls. My younger daughter was officially diagnosed with autism when she was around 20 months old. She was considered to be on the more severe side of the spectrum and was nonverbal. Reese is in first grade now, and she is amazing. She talks so much...

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