Supporting your child with autism or ADHD through the COVID-19 pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic is scary for everyone, not all people are impacted by the disruptions to daily life equally. Here are some tools to support your neurodiverse child.

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Apr 3, 2020

Tiimo member

April 3, 2020
Anna Fay
Lead on partnerships & Community outreach

While the COVID-19 pandemic is scary for everyone, not all people are impacted by the disruptions to daily life equally. Often, ADHD and autism mean that unexpected changes to routine can cause a lot of stress. We’re thinking about any of you who are impacted right now.

To try and support families, we’ve compiled suggestions and resources developed by experts to support your child through these difficult times and organized them into a few simple tips. Our research tells us that establishing some kind of outline and structure are going to be important through these uncertain times, all the while being flexible with expectations, setting boundaries with news and social media, and being gentle on one another. Please feel free to share additional resources, your own suggestions, or places people can look to for support on Instagram or Facebook.

In short:

  1. Be as gentle as you can on yourself and your child.
  2. Answer questions honestly & reassure your kids that they are safe.
  3. Use visual tools to explain what’s going on.
  4. Maintain whatever parts of your daily routine that you can.
  5. Incorporate your kids’ favourite activities & try out some of the activities that have been developed by educators, authors, and musicians.
  6. Ask for help.

Note: Are you an adult with ADHD or autism? We’re working on gathering resources for you as well. They’ll be up on the blog next week.

Support your child with autism or ADHD through the COVID-19 pandemic


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1) Be as gentle as you can on yourself and your child.

Prioritize health, mental and physical, not productivity. Lighten up on rules and expectations. Yes, there’s going to be more screen-time. As Tricia Arthur, a mom with ADHD, wrote last week: during this time ‘if everyone is alive and somewhat well, you are not failing.’


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2) Answer questions honestly & reassure your kids that they are safe.

One tiny source of relief for many of us is that most children are not vulnerable to COVID-19. However, the collective anxiety can be a lot for any of us to deal with, and our kids are no exception. The Child Mind Institute has some great advice about how to talk to your kid about the COVID-19. For kids with ADHD and autism, using visual tools to implement this advice could be super helpful (see below). Experts also warn about giving too much information. Make sure only to share information that is appropriate for your unique child and be mindful of the social media and news you’re consuming around your child. They’re probably absorbing more of it than you think.


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3) Use visual tools to explain what’s going on.

Visuals support the communication and understanding for many folks with ADHD and/or autism. These exceptional times might call for visuals that you don’t have on hand. PECS has developed tools to include some COVID-19 related images. A number of schools, organizations and therapists have created free social stories to help explain what’s going on. Here is a social story about covid-19 put together by Amanda McGuiness. The National Autism Association has a number of resources, including some social stories about handwashing.


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4) Maintain whatever parts of your daily routine that you can.

We know that routine can support the mental and physical health of almost everyone. And (as most of you probably know) it’s often particularly important for people with ADHD and/or autism. Start with the easier stuff: is there snack at a particular time on both weekends and school days? What’s your kids favourite post-school activity that you can keep (and possibly lengthen) in the daily rhythm? You can use Tiimo to help with some external structure. Rikke, Mom to a teenager with ADHD has this to say about how the app is helping her son at the moment: ‘These days I see very clearly what Tiimo does for Nicklas as we navigate this. Creating a routine in this 'new' everyday life is really difficult, because it’s not a holiday, which is what a typical change to routine would mean. But we’re handling it and Tiimo is a huge help because it establishes visually .’


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5) Incorporate your kids’ favourite activities & try out some of the activities that have been developed by educators, authors, and musicians.

From lunchtime art with Mo Willems, to Dolly Parton reading bedtime stories, there’s lots out there. Here’s a short list of what we’ve seen so far. Some of these may even coincide with a child’s special interest. Message us if you have activities to add to the list!


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6) Ask for help.

There are lots of mutual aid resources being developed as we speak. If you can’t make it out to shop, if you need someone to have a virtual playdate with your kids while you work for an hour, or if you just need someone to talk to, there are lots of people who want to help out right now. We have users from 50 different countries, so we can’t highlight possibilities where each and everyone of you are, but to start with, here is a huge database of mutual aids around the US and Canada - broken down by location or particular functions or groups they’re designed to support. Beyond that, try searching for either a) mutual aid covid-19 + the place you live, and then b) community support covid-19 + the place you live. If you don’t find anything, try the same with coronavirus. A lot of organizing is happening in local Facebook groups, some of which are Autism and ADHD specific, so make sure to have a look there too.

These are extremely challenging times, but we know we’ll get through them better by supporting one another. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do or if you have suggestions we should add to the list! Contact us right here.

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Are you interested in knowing more about Tiimo app and how Tiimo can assist neurodiverse people?
Read our user story with Ria, mom to 9-year-old Marc, who at the age of 4 was diagnosed with autism. From the day he was born, Ria knew that there was something special about him.

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