Thousands of people across the nation and more around the world have had their spring break trips canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic that’s sweeping the globe this season. While these types cancellations are a bummer for all of us, they can be an even bigger deal for families of children with autism.
Individuals with autism often struggle to cope with change, so family members sometimes spend days or weeks preparing their autistic loved ones for big events like vacations. When those plans are changed at the last minute, it can be hard for a person with autism to understand why they don’t get to do the fun thing that was promised them. Especially when other things are being taken from them too, such as the ability to go to school, hang out with friends, and see therapists.
There’s no manual for dealing with an autistic child who doesn’t understand why a pandemic is keeping them from doing all the things they love, and parents are left grasping at straws in an attempt to keep their children happy and healthy during this difficult time. But some parents have come up with creative solutions, and we’d like to share just one of them with you today.
JW is one young boy with autism who has been particularly affected by his family’s canceled vacation. Routines and schedules are very important to him, but he also loves to travel and was very much looking forward to his family’s trip this year.
“About day 3 or 4, he just had a total meltdown, so I think it’s okay to embrace and accept those meltdowns. It’s a part of our journey. They’re going to happen,” says Amy Hardin, JW’s mom.
Living under the stay-home orders many states have put into place during the pandemic has been hard for JW. Not only does he not fully understand why he can’t do all the fun things he loves and maintain the schedule he’s accustomed to, he is also anxious about the virus. It’s something invisible and hard for him to wrap his mind around, and so he is worried about it sneaking up on him.
“If we had take-out delivered on a take-out Tuesday, he’ll say, ‘Is the virus coming in with that food?’ so we know those anxieties are there,” says Amy.
Luckily, however, Amy has devised a solution that helps with all three aspects of JW’s discomfort surrounding the pandemic. It allows him to have fun and feel like he’s on a vacation and simultaneously distracts him from his anxieties about COVID-19 and the changes in his routine.
Amy decided to decorate every room in her home to look like a different spring break destination. That way, JW has the opportunity to visit not just one vacation spot but several different exciting places!
Check out the video below to learn more about Amy’s awesome idea to keep her son happy and entertained during the pandemic.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?