Dr. Lynette Louise offers tips to help relieve worry and ease health risks from COVID-19 when your child has autism.
Simi Valley, CA, March 16, 2020 – Every day of every year we work to take care of our health and the health of our loved ones. During times of increased risk it often feels as though we have to become professional virus/bacteria bodyguards, with a side gig in medical research, in order to keep the illnesses at bay.
For those of us with certain special needs or habits; compulsions, stims, sensory needs, and challenged immune systems; it can be doubly challenging.
Dr. Lynette Louise (“The Brain Broad”) is an international brain change and behavior expert. She is also the mother of eight now grown children, six adopted, four with autism and other cognitive disabilities, who has developed ways to help all children, regardless of ability or special needs, grow healthy and she would like to share some tips with you.
- WATER FUN AND PLAYING WITH FOOD – Now (during the global concern of COVID – 19) is not the time to deny handwashing or other water play. Yes, often we want to encourage or teach our autistic loved ones to do less with water, to find other passions for play, to not need water so much. (NOTE: Not all autistic individuals are drawn to water but most are. And when they are averse to water it often has to do with a traumatic/controlling behavioral modification caused experience that complicates their relationship with water.) However, when highly contagious illnesses are giving you and those around you legitimate concerns, it’s time to switch your focus and add some soap. Use water as reward. Encourage the water play and explain why. (NOTE: Regardless of whether or not your loved one with autism seems to understand your explanation, they are entitled to it. Also, they are understanding that you have a reason.) Don’t frighten your family, but be honest about why you are allowing more soapy water than usual. For people who have dry skin, find antibacterial lotions for sensory comfort. Have fun with it!
Additionally, follow your child’s impulses. if your child has a habit of playing with strong-smelling foods, like garlic, and lemons allow it. They are teaching you something. Foods like garlic, lemon, vinegar, coconut oil or honey, are non-toxic antibacterial/germ-killing ways to keep clean. Don’t disallow these habits for now, though in the sticky case of honey you’ll understandably want to be limited even in allowing, but do explain the reason. Then follow with a little water play; your hands too.
- INCLUDE THE ENTIRE FAMILY – Don’t make the all too common mistake of giving only the autistic individual new ways. Be sure to shift everyone’s habits and talk about the fun of keeping healthy from contagion. Some people may still have to go to work or school. When arriving home make a show of washing hands, changing clothes, not chewing your nails. Be sure to use a proactive energy rather than a fearful one. Children on the spectrum easily slip into anxiety and panic that will make keeping them germ-free harder. Be careful not to make the outside world sound overly dangerous, even in a playful way. Watch your tone, choose your words carefully (“Phew! I’m going to quickly wash my hands in case I accidentally touched that germ!” is better than, “I’ve got to wash my hands quick! That germ could have been anywhere out there!”), remember that we still want to help our autistic children and friends feel accepted and comfortable in the outside world. Have the entire family get involved in similar ways as the person with autism. If they are playing with water, play with water too!
- ATTITUDE IS KEY – Getting enough sleep and reducing stress are of great importance to your immune system. And having a healthy immune system is always a good idea. If you allow yourself to become more afraid and on edge every time you touch your face or your child wipes her hands on dirty surfaces, you might yell or speak of habits as though they are bad or wrong in ways you otherwise had patience for. Don’t! Have an attitude of learning, fun, and togetherness. Explain why handwashing and water play are more frequent for now, be honest with your child, but keep the bigger picture and long-range goals in mind. You want everyone healthy now, but also emotionally healthy later. Many people with autism and other cognitive challenges already have germ fears and phobias, so do your best to be truthful without causing bigger challenges for their futures.
- OF COURSE, AVOID CROWDS – Particularly with autistic individuals that touch everything and put things in or near their mouths. There is the obvious reason that they will be at greater risk of not appropriately avoiding contamination, but also it is a good time to avoid the fears and judgments of others. People are on high alert and nervous, so it’s not the best environment. Of course, when you do have to venture out do your best to remember tip three: attitude is key. Bring that knowledge, as well as lemons, garlic, and sanitizer, with you.
COVID – 19 is highly contagious and you don’t want your family to confront it. But with these tips offered by Dr. Lynette Louise, “The Brain Broad,” international expert and mom, you can help your family stay healthy while also taking advantage of the opportunity to teach hygiene, flexibility with routines, and have a little fun with food and water.
Please reach out to The Brain Broad for more tips and ideas for helping your autistic child stay healthy during this time of worldwide worry while gaining skills, rather than regressing.
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CONTACT: Dr. Lynette Louise – Lynette Louise, D.Sc., Ph.D. ABD
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