How can we leverage digital tools to foster
connection and resilience in children
with Autism during the COVID-19 pandemic?
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An introductory video written and produced by
children with Autism
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Read the facts about Autism Spectrum Disorder
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
There is no one type of Autism, but many.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. The disorder is most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. And because Autism is a spectrum disorder, each person has a distinct set of strengths and challenges.
What are the symptoms?
Delayed Speech Impairment
Prefer to Play or Spend Time Alone
Problems With Sleep
Impaired Social Skills
Rejecting Human Connection
What are the latest
statistics of ASD?
How has social distancing and quarantine put into effect
during the COVID-19 outbreak affected children with ASD?
April is Autism Awareness Month and parents of children with an ASD are facing challenges with managing behavior, social skills, and education, due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are already at risk for rejecting human connection and impaired social skills, and the quarantine makes it several times easier for these children to lock themselves away from contact.
During the COVID-19 crisis, a family’s challenges are unique; however, they are not insurmountable.
There are steps that families can take to dramatically improve the connection and resilience in their children with Autism while modern medicine is not avaliable. Rather than using treatments like antipsychotics or using a medical model type approach, families can apply a positive psychological model through exposure therapy to enhance purpose and connection in their children.
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Partake in an interactive experience
Click the button below and it will redirect you to my quiz. After you are finished, click the back arrow (←) and the presentation will continue where you left off. There are six questions, and the quiz should take you about two minutes. Good luck and see you soon!
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A two-pronged plan
My method to help build connection and resilience in children with Autism is by creating a community of both diverse and alike learners. The online workshop will use a software such as Zoom Video Communications to host meetings.
I plan to make an online workshop for children with Autism as a type of exposure therapy that plunges kids into an engaging and safe space. Children with not only be allowed to express feelings and ask questions about the COVID-19 crisis, but they will also be met with targeted resilience-building activities that get their energy flowing!
Step One: Fitness Learning
- Ball Skills/Control
- Jump Roping
- Physical Challenges
Studies have shown that physical activities greatly enhances the road to resilience, according to the American Psychological Association.
The goal of fitness learning is to encourage children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to step out of their comfort zone and learn new skills. With COVID-19 and quarantine looming, the urge to “shut down” has risen. Fitness serves as a type of exposure therapy to combat this notion.
Exercise affects any brain in many ways.
It increases heart rate, which pumps more oxygen to the brain. It also aids the release of hormones which provide an excellent environment for the growth of brain cells. One of these neurotrasmitters is dopamine.
For the autistic mind, fitness learning also promotes brain plasticity by stimulating growth of new connections between cells in cortical areas of the brain. Neuroscientific and psychological research from UCLA demonstrated that exercise increased growth factors in the brain, which helps create new connections. These techniques directly oppose the urge of many children with Autism during the crisis, and expose these children to both inner and outer connection.
Step Two: Community Conversations
- Pair and Share
- Meet New People
- Show And/Or Tell
- “COVID” Conversations
- Origami – Art with Steps
Graphic by Raag Venkat
Community conversations sparks connection and resilience in children with Autism by creating a safe environment during the COVID-19 crisis.
Because some children with Autism present as nonverbal, community conversations do not simply include words. Actions are the most important. The space is open and inclusive – all are welcome! With this idea in mind, kids with Autism learn about teamwork, how to connect with others, and what actions/words feel good to hear or experience – and which don’t feel great to hear or experience.
Confidence and resilience gradually build as kids move through the practice and realize that they’re not being judged – and that their opinions are both heard and matter. Activities like Origami, which are conducted in a series of steps, foster a “routine” like element in the minds of children with Autism. These routines are incredibly important to embed in everyday life during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Action steps and support for families
How do you explain COVID-19?
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may be wondering: Why is everything different? Why am I feeling so scared? What do I do?
Families can take several measures to provide reassurance to their children and to let children with ASD know you’re working hard to keep your family healthy.
Finding out what they already know is important to deciding what to share:
- Have you noticed anything different in our lives?
- Do you know what is happening?
- Do you know what the coronavirus is?
- What questions do you have about the situation?
It is best to simply explain the changes and what they are experiencing right away, either through actions or words. While some children with ASD can comprehend language, others have trouble – for example, visual images may imporve understanding more than words. Convey a message in the way your child interprets best.
How do you embrace the changes due to COVID-19?
Working with your child to embrace new routines and activities is an important step to coping with COVID-19. Using schedules or charts to emphasize steps helps your child visualize that even through change, there are healthy habits to practice no matter what.
Here are some suggestions to embrace change:
- Setting up regular video chats with friends or family. It’s crucial to keep social connections alive despite physical separation.
- Go outside at least once a day (while social-distancing)!
- Providing alternatives. Change might feel less daunting if we are still given choices during our time in quarantine.
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Closing statements by Raag Venkat highlighting
motivation and desire
I would like to sincerely thank you for interacting with my Catalyst Conference Project. Now, I would like to call on you to take the ideas you have learned to new heights. Think about some of these prompting questions below, and then leave me a video underscoring your thoughts on my Flipgrid:
- Do you have a personal experience with Autism? What about ASD have you seen, heard, or explored in your community?
- How can you educate your community about ASD during the COVID-19 crisis?
- Where are some places you can interact or volunteer with children with ASD after quarantine?
- What other methods of connection can families use?
Additionally, please feel free to comment with any questions, comments, or suggestions. This will give me the opportunity to continue developing my ideas and spark real change in my own community.
Currently, I volunteer for an organization called ACEing Autism in my community – I am hoping to bring some of my research and ideas back when it hopefully starts up in Fall 2020.
I encourage everyone to find a chapter of ACEing Autism near them and try volunteering for this moving and heartwarming organization – some of my happiest moments have been while helping out on the courts.
Our mission is to connect children with autism through unique tennis programs, and to develop and advance proven methods to positively impact the children, families and communities we serve.– ACEing Autism
Finally, attached is my Works Cited. Again, thank you and…