“The rights of persons with autism must be taken into account in the formulation of all responses to the COVID-19 virus. On World Autism Awareness Day, let us stand together, support each other and show solidarity with persons with autism.”
António Guterres, United Nations Secretary General
On World Autism Awareness Day, here at Ineqe Safeguarding Group, we want to stand together and provide support for all young people on the autistic spectrum and their carers during the pandemic.
As a result of the current public health crisis, many young people on the autistic spectrum and their families may be experiencing breakdowns in their normal support systems. Following school closures, many young people on the autistic spectrum will be spending even more time online. On World Autism Awareness Day we are providing you with information on how we can support young people with autism and those who care for them.
In our experience, children and young people of all ages with additional needs are no different in their desire to use new technology, and with the right support and supervision they can. As technology evolves and our understanding of it improves, we realise it has the potential to be a force for good. A powerful force that can empower young people living with autism and those that care for them.
Here are 5 ways you can use technology to support individuals on the autistic spectrum.
An Emergency Chat App for those who are feeling overwhelmed
Individuals on the spectrum can struggle to communicate verbally when feeling heightened emotions, often referred to as a “meltdown”. As stated on the App stores, the Emergency Chat app “can be used in any situation where speech is impossible, but communication is still necessary.”
The Emergency Chat App has a splash screen with “base text that explains to the person you gave your phone to that you can’t use speech and want to use this App to communicate. The default text is aimed at people experiencing an autistic meltdown, where their speech centres stay non-functional for a while even after they’ve recovered.”
Before using this App research it for yourself – you can begin with this review from the App Store below.
“I literally just had a really bad shutdown last night because of my anxiety and couldn’t talk for hours. A lot of my friends don’t sign (I do) and that made it really hard to communicate with them – it’s been an issue in my life for a really long time and I’m so glad I found this App!
“It’s literally what I’ve been needing and I love that the message screen is customizable so that I can explain what’s happening to me specifically. I wish I’d had this last night! THANK YOU.”
‘Choiceworks’ is a Visual System App for those who need their daily routine
This app helps to create visual schedules for transitioning children and young people through multi-step tasks. This learning tool helps them with routines, understanding their feelings and learning how to wait or take turns. The App was “created with the support of leading hospitals and child development specialists” and is designed for “caregivers to provide clear and consistent support to foster a child’s independence, positive behaviour, and emotional regulation at home and in the community.”
“I never thought I would see the day my son would dress himself, but after using this app he has been dressing himself and trying to beat the time every day. I love that you can add your own daily schedule images and record your own voice. This is such an important aspect of this app as my son takes everything literally so every single task has to be on his daily schedule.”
Available on the Apple App store : £4.99
Sound cancelling/blocking headphones for those that are sensitive to noise
Individuals who are sensitive to sound may benefit from noise-cancelling headphones. Different types of headphones will suit different individuals, for example one person may prefer in-ear headphones and another may prefer over-ear headphones.
Read through threads on Austism.org’s community section on their favourite headphones.
Learn Makaton to communicate with those who are non-verbal
Makaton is a language that allows individuals to communicate with signs and symbols. The Makaton Charity states that “Children and adults can communicate straight away using signs and symbols. Many people then drop the signs or symbols naturally at their own pace, as they develop speech.”
If you are interested in learning Makaton, the charity has active social media channels that teach different signs every week and a growing library of signs on their YouTube channel.
For younger children, spend some of their allocated daily screentime watching Mr Tumble on Something Special. He uses Makaton signs and symbols throughout the programme.
At Safer Schools, we have created a video using Makaton and images to explain the Coronavirus to children and young people. The video supports parents/carers in having a conversation on a difficult topic. The video provides you with all of the facts on what the virus is, how it can spread and what we can ALL do to make everyone safer.
Raise awareness in young children with Pablo
Pablo is an animated cartoon, about an autistic boy who draws imaginary animals to help him handle situations that make him feel uncomfortable. Voiced solely by individuals on the autistic spectrum, the characters within the show represent different traits of the spectrum, for example, the llama repeats things that people say, an autistic trait known as echolalia.
Pablo’s Art World Adventure game can be found in the CBeebies Playtime Island app.
Signposting to Support for those on the Autistic Spectrum
We have compiled a list of regional autism support services across the United Kingdom in this downloadable PDF.