The COVID-19 pandemic has been difficult for everyone, however some people have been hit harder than others, such as parents with children who have autism.
Hope Rudics, the president of the Chinook Autism Society, has a seven-year-old son, Jude, who has autism. He’s considered to be high functioning, however being away from his normal routine has been difficult.
“He does miss his teachers… his one-on-one aid in the classroom. He misses her a lot,” Rudics said.
“He misses his friends. He’s in Grade 1 now, so he was just getting to the point where he could maintain the friendships that he made,” she added.
The family was looking into to having his aid from school pay them a visit, but Jude’s aid was recently laid off and they’re not sure what kind of support he will receive come fall.
Jude’s mom has been trying her best to make sure he can still complete his lessons from home. His teachers say doing things like reading, baking, and doing chores and activities around the house with his family will help him continue to progress.
However, his mother is still worried about being able to fill in his teacher’s and support worker’s shoes.
“So, not only am I trying to learn a lesson plan, I’m trying to figure out how to tweak that for him, without having a background in therapy, without having a background in teaching.”
Rudics says they’ve been using techniques to help Jude learn his lessons at home, such as starting homeschooling in the afternoon rather than the morning, since that is when he seems to be the most receptive at the moment. She says taking as many breaks as needed in between lessons helps as well.
Lori Litki is another Lethbridge mom who knows what parenting a child with autism looks like during a pandemic. She is also the executive of Bridges Consulting, which helps provide supports for families and individuals with loved ones who have disabilities.
Lori has three sons and two of them are on the spectrum.
“They’re vastly different despite being brothers.
“My oldest son is non-verbal and is quite affected by his autism. His brother is also quite affected but not as much. He has language and can do those other kinds of things and talk and explain things. So he’s a lot more independent.”
Litki’s 14-year-old son Colton does not have a diagnosis similar to his brothers. He is able to exercise a lot of independence in his life in comparison to his brothers, and also needs very little supervision when completing his homework and daily tasks.
Her 19-year-old son Zackary misses volunteering, since that was a big part of his life. Her 16-year-old, Jackson, has been less affected, however he still misses being surrounded by his peers and going to school.
“He had a lot of volunteer opportunities and those have been removed from him during this time and he’s been much more isolated, which can be kind of frightening because you want to make sure kids with disabilities are connected in their community,” Litki explained.
Both Rudics and Litki say putting as much structure and routine into their children’s lives as possible while being at home is the best way to help them cope for now.
Litki says routine can help reduce feelings of anxiety or uncertainty.
The two parents also say they’ve been finding their own way of explaining the pandemic to their kids in a way they can understand it.