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How school closures affect kids with autism

 April is Autism Awareness Month.
April is Autism Awareness Month. (WLUC)
Published: Apr. 15, 2020 at 2:28 PM EDT
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With schools across the state and country closed for the rest of the school year, many students are learning online at home.

For students with autism, this change can negatively impact their lives.

"All this happened so abruptly that the change has been very stressful and anxiety-provoking not only for children, but also their parents,” said Dr. Annette Nunez, psychotherapist and owner of Breakthrough Interventions in Denver.

Nunez adds that it's important to get kids back on a schedule as soon as possible, since kids with autism often rely on routines.

"When creating a schedule it's really important to put when the start of the day is, when the end of the day is, and then also including things like physical breaks because our kids do need physical breaks,” Nunez said. She also recommends adding things like snack time and bathroom breaks to closely mimic school schedules.

For parents that are struggling to adjust the change, or who need help developing a learning plan, Nunez says to reach out to teachers for help.

"I encourage parents to reach out to their teachers to find out what online resources are available that target that academic criteria that's written in their IEP [individualized education program] because teachers know their child the best,” Nunez added.

Social isolation can also negatively impact children at this time, but Nunez says there are things you can do to keep your child connected with the world around them.

"So many teachers now are offering Google Chats or Zoom meet-ups with classmates, so that's an opportunity for children to socialize with their peers,” Nunez said.

Nunez also recommends FaceTiming and setting up virtual play dates.

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