Autism groups helping with COVID-19 anxiety - Herald Sun Australia

Autism groups helping with COVID-19 anxiety – Herald Sun Australia

Families everywhere are facing huge adjustments to daily life as a result of COVID-19.

But for children with autism, the uncertainty caused by school shutdowns and coronavirus fears presents unique challenges.

We’ve compiled expert information on how to talk about coronavirus with kids with autism, where you can get NDIS advice and the all-abilities gym offering free respite for the children of essential services workers.

Amaze chief executive Fiona Sharkie said between 40-70 per cent of people on the spectrum experienced significant anxiety, which could be exacerbated by shutdowns, a loss of routine, and seeing others distressed about COVID-19.

“It is a very confusing and uncertain time and with schools and workplaces shutting down, that can make it very difficult for people with autism to cope,” she said.

Confusion about whether you could access special supermarket shopping hours, potential stock shortages of favourite foods and seeing people wearing – or you being forced to wear – PPE masks could also be distressing.

Ms Sharkie said Amaze was in regular contact with the National Disability Insurance Agency to be able to advise people how their funding could be used at this time.

“We know some people have funding for transport to school or things like that, so we’re seeking the best advice about whether that can be used for home equipment,” she said.

“We are building a bank of information based on what people are asking us.

“It is a challenging time but we are pulling together resources to support people the best way we can.”

She advised anyone with questions to contact the Amaze Autism Advisor service on 1300 308 699 (weekdays 8am-7pm), email at or web chat at

The NDIS website is also regularly updating with coronavirus information and support.

Sue Larkey, an expert in special education, advised using social scripts when explaining the coronavirus to children with autism.

“The advantage of social scripts is the children can refer back to them many times to boost understanding,” she said.

“Social scripts can also tell students what they can do by providing alternative situations.”

You can find out more about social scripts and Ms Larkey’s work here.

Autism Family Support Association secretary Amanda Golding said one of the greatest challenges was managing the uncertainty.

To tackle this she planned a schedule for her adult son – walks to the lake, DVDs to watch, a new jigsaw puzzle – the night before.

We Rock the Spectrum (WRTS) co-owner Sally Johnson said the all-abilities gym remained open for the time being.

Families can privately hire the Preston indoor playground, which is sanitised after every visit and has strict entry requirements, for a discounted $100 an hour to help children meet their sensory needs.

Ms Johnson said families accessing NDIS funds could contact WRTS to see if they could use the funding for private hire sessions.

While they had been forced to significantly reduce their school holiday respite program for public health reasons, Ms Johnson said they were looking at how they could offer families respite if schools remained closed after the break.

The organisation’s charity partner My Brother Rocks the Spectrum is sponsoring free care and drop-off services at We Rock the Spectrum for the children of people working in essential services such as healthcare, supermarket workers and emergency services crews.

Read the original feature.