Lockdown Life: 5 Autism parenting tips to help you cope

As if Lockdown isn’t hard enough!

Events around Covid-19 have had dramatic effects on our world.

For our Autism community, these changes have created there own set of challenges.

Parenting Autistic kids isn’t easy at the best of times but when everywhere shuts down it’s no wonder our lives are turned upside down. Even the little things that got us through the day are no longer accessible.

With our children at home 24/7 parenting as we know it has gone out of the window. If like me you are trying to keep going, wondering if you’ll ever make it to bedtime you are not alone.

I have asked some of our Autism community how they are coping, and these were their top tips:

1) Get outdoors – if just for your own sanity

Walking and exercise is great for reducing anxiety.  Although it can be stressful trying to get your Autistic ones through the door, sticking to a routine and having a focus can really help. 

One parent advised going out for morning walks has benefited his daughter as it helps to keep her calm for the day.  Another parent struggled to get her son out of the house so she combined his love for water and now takes him to the local brook, saying it’s not only helped with meltdowns but it also helps with his sleep too!  Walking is great for releasing feel-good endorphins and therefore will not only benefit your child but will benefit you as well.

2) Routine – but not as you know it

Routine is the most important way of managing Autistic behaviour and ordinarily, we adhere to this daily, sometimes without even thinking about it!  When there are no reasons to get up, or to do anything it can be tough to stick to them, and getting through the day can sometimes be a blur, am I right?

Most of my Autism community said routine has helped enormously but with reduced demands.  Just getting up at the same time, keeping meals and snack time the same, and maintaining a bedtime routine has added some normality to the day.  Letting them know what is happening the next day can really help with anxiety and using a whiteboard to map out the day is a great visual aid.

Another great tip is setting up activities for them to do so that they can choose, this helps keep boredom at bay, whilst giving them some control over their day.  This is great if demands trigger tantrums/meltdowns.

3) Sensory fix – a bit of improvisation

Lots of sensory fixes throughout the day keep some meltdowns away! The great weather has definitely helped get some trampoline time in but if like me you don’t have one I found bouncing on the bed still created that sensory input they need.

I’m not here to promote products but Gelli Baff has my kids entertained for ages! It’s not only sensory but it also gets them clean, that’s a win-win in my book.

Of course, IPads have been a common tip from our community, these are a source of entertainment but can also be used for a bit of sneaky homework!

As one parent said, they tend to choose IPads or TV, it’s not perfect but I am just trying to cope and get the kids through lockdown.

4) Quiet time – for a little calm

I know what you are thinking – if only? Or, yes for 8 hours a day?  Quiet time for as little as 20 minutes a day can be extremely beneficial for self-regulation and help calm the body.  Even if this involves just lying on the bed cuddling in the afternoon, it can help to try and calm down before the bedtime battles!

Making space for relaxation is also important for parents as well! We always forget to look after ourselves but taking a bit of time out can really help your mental health.  Even if it’s just 10 minutes it will be so beneficial. Get that book out you are always saying you’re going to read or sit in the garden with a cuppa – just unclench your jaw, get off social media and breath just for a bit.  Getting into the right headspace will really help us to help our kids cope through this tough time.

5) Praise and reward – not just for your kids

Lots of praise and a constant supply of snacks have helped too!  I have found food-based rewards have helped with motivating my son to do things, I don’t advocate food as a reward normally, but what else do we have to offer!

Praise isn’t just for the kids, give yourself a pat on the back for getting this far! 

We have been thrown into a very unnatural way of life and it’s not been easy so don’t brush off how resilient you are, that takes some doing!  

It’s okay to feel exhausted

Nobody could have prepared for the rapid changes that have been made to our life recently! It’s no wonder we are all exhausted, so I hope these tips help to get you through the next few weeks!

Just remember what you have been through, no other parent could ever know how hard it is or ever do it!  You are amazing, you are strong, you are a fighter.  You are an Autism parent!

A big thank you to my Autism community for all your top tips and advice in this difficult time.

Written by Clare Bailey 2020

Helping with autism