DR RADICA MAHASE
TT is currently experiencing a spike in the number of positive covid19 cases and an increase in the number of deaths from covid19. Both children and adult with Autism Spectrum Disorders tend to have other medical related issues such as obesity, epilepsy and other conditions. In many cases, individuals on the spectrum lack proper nutrition because of sensory issues – some eat food of specific texture, some might eat only a few different types of food, many do not take medical supplements amongst other things. Many are at risk and it is imperative that parents/caregivers take extra measures to protect them.
Kevon, father to 16 years old Mikey noted, “My son was diagnosed with autism when he was six years old and he has always been a fussy eater because he just cannot digest certain foods. Getting him to take medications is a big challenge and if he gets sick it is a really scary time for him and the family. So, with covid around and the cases popping up every day we are very worried about him and we do everything to protect him.”
What is this parent doing to protect his son? Kevon outlined his two-steps approach: on one side he tries to teach his son good covid practices and on the other side, he does his part to ensure that he is not putting his son at risk. Here are some of his suggestions:
Teach your children to protect themselves – “I focus on teaching my son everything about covid19 – all over again. Everything that I taught him last year, when we went into lockdown, I am teaching him again. Most of the time he doesn’t understand but I keep telling him anyway. If I come home from the supermarket and he rush to take the bags of groceries, I tell him that other people touched it so he has to wash his hands. And I go with him to wash his hands and help him if he needs me to. I make everything very practical for him so that he can understand as best as possible.
Keep your children at home – I know that many parents get frustrated trying to take care of a child 24/7, especially when the child keep getting meltdowns. But the thing is, if you think you’re going by the neighbour and you take your child, you don’t know who the neighbour was in contact with. Same thing with therapy, I want to keep carrying me son for his individual sessions but I don’t know who the therapist was in contact with. My son doesn’t wear a mask but even if he did, I would keep him home. That is the safest thing is for me, to just keep him home and try to keep him occupy. I prefer to deal with the meltdowns rather than have a child with covid.
Protect your children from yourself – My wife has to go out to work; she doesn’t have the option to work at home like me. So, when she comes home after work, we make sure that she showers and changes her clothes before our son can interact with her. At first, he didn’t understand why mommy can’t hug him as soon as she got home, that’s what he was accustomed to and he would get upset. But we kept explaining to him, sometimes she would sneak in the house without him knowing, sometimes she would give him an extra snack – we tried all kinds of things to distract him, until he’s okay with the change.
Limit visitors to your home – We live in one of those neighbourhood where everyone knows everyone and people will just drop in. But once we saw the covid cases rising we decided to put an end to all that so now we don’t have any one over, not relatives or neighbours or friends. If anyone is by the gate, we will tell them we not having people inside because we don’t want Mikey to get sick. A few people didn’t understand but according to my wife, our first responsibility is to protect our son rather than please people.
According to Kevon, “I don’t even want to think how horrible it would be if Mikey got covid. So, the best thing for me as a parent, is to do everything I can to protect him, to keep him away from people, mask or no mask. That is my responsibility as a father.”
Radica Mahase is the founder/director of Support Autism T&T