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Autism in Times of Uncertainty: COVID-19

by Jaime Friedman

June 14, 2022


Covid has provided the world an exceptional amount of uncertainty and isolation, experiences shared by families with neurodivergent children since long before the pandemic. Each school district and ABA provider has had its own unique response to the pandemic, each prioritizing safety for all individuals they serve. While statements surrounding prioritizing, self-care have abounded, there’s minimal information about making those recommendations sustainable. One group of researchers from Italy created a model of support for families with autism facing isolation.

The researchers acknowledged the limitations on the current research, protocols, and resources and crafted a protocol for whole family systems aimed at maintaining adaptive skills and keeping interfering behaviors low in both frequency and magnitude. This protocol truly examined the whole family unit, including parents caring for all children, including the child(ren) with autism.

The protocol included standardizing the families’ schedules, including sleeping, which caregiver would be supporting which child at a given time, isolating reinforcers, itemized activities to engage in, and promoting the movement for all family members.

While the data had not yet been analyzed at the time of publication, there were excerpts of family’s feedback to the engagement protocol; those reports included statements that the standardized schedule was easy to maintain, clarified how parents could engage with their children and families were also reported observing to see their child(ren)’s growth during the period of isolation.

degli Espinosa, F., Metko, A., Raimondi, M., Impenna, M., Scognamiglio, E. (2020). A model of Support for Families of Children with Autism Living in the COVID-19 Lockdown: Lessons from Italy. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 13(3), 550-558. doi10.1007/s40617-020-00438-7