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New routines from coronavirus lockdowns impacting children with autism

Posted at 11:56 AM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 12:56:09-04

RICHMOND, Va. – For Kristen Teodoro and her son, Hudson, therapy looks very different in the time of COVID-19.

“My husband and I have, you know, we've had to completely adjust to this,” she said. “This is completely a new way of life for us.”

Hudson has autism; he’s non-verbal, with attention deficit disorder. He usually attends therapy, but that is not possible right now. His mom said staying at home because of the coronavirus has been especially disruptive to Hudson’s progress.

“It's not like you're pressing a pause button that you can, you know, hit resume, when this is all over,” Teodoro said. “Every day, they're losing that therapy. They're taking a step backwards.”

According to a report released by the CDC in late March, the number of children with autism in America is growing. It is now 1 in 54 kids – a 10% increase over numbers seen in 2014.

Another finding: boys are four times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with it.

“Individuals with autism often find comfort in routine. And so, foremost, being at home has completely disrupted the routine,” said Donna Murray, vice president of clinical programs at the non-profit Autism Speaks.

Murray said, at times like these, your computer may be a lifeline, whether through the Autism Speaks website or in other ways.

“I'm really hopeful that as schools and agencies and therapists gear up, we're going to be much better at being able to reach out and engage children in therapy using telehealth methods,” Murray said.

However, she adds that parents need to be flexible – and forgiving of themselves – as well.

“Take it easy on yourself,” she said. “It's okay to have longer breaks. It's okay to have a little more TV time or computer time than usual.”

April is Autism Awareness Months. For Kristen Teodoro and her family, it is all about helping Hudson tackle each day as it comes.

“I'm in the same boat as every other parent. But my biggest thing is: don't put too much pressure on yourself,” she said. “You're trying your hardest. This isn't your forte. You're not an educator, you're not a therapist, you know, you're doing your best – and that matters.”

It especially matters to those who matter most in their lives: their children.

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