Many people are struggling with isolation and feelings of loneliness as our way of life has been altered due to the pandemic. Simply going out to dinner with friends, or hosting a game night with extended family members, or planning play dates for your children is not so simple these days.
Parents with children with ADHD or ASD may feel especially impacted by this as the alternative means of socialization during COVID-19 can cause a regression in social skills. This can be upsetting and frustrating for parents and children. There can also be differing opinions among parents about what risks they are willing to take to help their children socialize. It’s important to have a plan and be consistent!
Communicate and Plan
Many times, parents assume they are on the same page until they are knee-deep in the middle of a plan only to discover that one person is feeling very uncomfortable with the risks taken to socialize during COVID-19. This can cause arguments and derail any effort to create a plan that both parents can feel good about. Having an open and honest discussion about these plans ahead of time can make the difference. The following are things to consider agreeing upon in advance.
- Assess each family member’s risk, taking into consideration health conditions, ability to wear face coverings, need to care for seniors, and underlying health concerns.
- Communicate with one another about your concerns and discuss any differences of opinion. Remember we all have a different comfort level with exposure to regardless of health concerns. It is important that we try respect the decisions of our family members.
Emotional Regulation & Expression
Related to impulsivity, students with ADHD and ASD have difficulties with emotional regulation and expression. Socialization increases ones’ ability to regulate one’s feelings such as frustration & disappointment when situations are not fair and become overwhelming. The modeling of copies skills such as identification and labeling of feelings, thought stopping and diaphragmatic breathing using biofeedback are essential for successful group activities (i.e., sports, dances, church groups, fieldtrips) and future relationships.
While it is important to stay safe during this time, consider alternatives to keep socialization efforts intact. We may have several more months to practice social distancing, and children with ADHD and ASD need opportunities and experiences to continue gains in socialization. Every child and family will have unique needs based on the age and development.
- Create a safety bubble of friends. Many families are choosing a select few to make social plans with safely.
- Plan outdoor activities when possible. Take advantage of parks, beaches, bike rides in a group, or distanced picnic bringing your own food. Certain sports have been able to continue safely outside, including tennis (singles, marital arts, running/track, soccer
- Avoid sharing toys and meals.
- Plan a movie over zoom where children can interact with one another from the safety of their own homes; or have a movie night outside.
- Caravan to drive thru events and allow the children to facetime from their cars.
Social Skills Groups
Even though in person/live social skills groups are significantly more effective, remote/ distance online social skills groups have become alternative options during COVID-19. ALC recommends both safe in person and remote socialization during COVID-19.
Since students are required to wear masks in person, advantages of remote groups are the ability to practice identification and understanding of facial expressions and more clearly understand communication.
There are many free remote community and topic groups now available since COVID-19 worsened.
- Social skills groups can occur outside and during non-contact activities that are further than 6-10 feet without mask.
- Remote social skills groups can occur more often, easier to attend due to lack of travel & driving time.
- A good strategy is to start older students in remote groups with the goal or transitioning to in person groups.
- Its helpful for both parents to model good social skills in person and also participating remotely in groups in order for students to take the need for socialization seriously!