Coronavirus and Autism: When Your Childs School and Programs Are Closed
March 23, 2020

Parents everywhere are struggling with how to get through the day with their child with autism, now that schools and programs are closed due to the coronavirus. What seemed like a short-term school closure has become a long and indefinite shut-down of academic programs, behavioral services, and therapy appointments.

Teachers have been struggling to provide their students with online lessons, and special education teachers seem to be having the most challenges. Every student in special ed has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses, which are, not always easily, addressed in a classroom setting.

Now that parents and caregivers have the responsibility of having their children with autism at home, they are in need of good resources to help their special needs children.

Autism Boy | Coronavirus

With rapidity, schools, agencies, program directors, and various organizations have stepped up to provide whatever they can in an effort to help parents get through the day with their children with autism. Online resources have bloomed (this blog post will highlight a few).

Teachers are sending links and lessons to special needs parents, and in some cases they are connecting with their students with autism through texts and FaceTime. What we’ve never practiced for, what we’ve never had to do before on such a grand scale, is what we’re facing now. 

What To Do When Schools Are Closed

Don’t be overwhelmed; this is not a race, and this is not about perfection. We all need to take it day by day. The reality for those of us facing autism is that what worked one day may not work the next. So we have to give things our best shot. We must do what we can to help our kids who may not understand why they are home. And if things don’t go well part of the time (or even all of the time!) we should not beat ourselves up about it.

Stay with it. Find patience deep within you. Find confidence to be creative, to be flexible, to be calm. No one is going to judge a special needs parent for spending the day watching YouTube videos on construction vehicles or how to cook a potato. This situation, undoubtedly challenging, is temporary.

In this two-part post, we’ll be giving you information to help you get through the “school day” with your child or teen with autism during this coronavirus outbreak. Part two will address the emotional impact of schools and programs being closed. Here are some online resources to check out as you venture into unknown territory while at home with your son or daughter. These are in no particular order.

Online Resources for Your Child with Autism

Mc Harper Manor has “Quarantined Creations” art tutorials.

Scholastic has Learn At Home, a day by day resource organized by grade level.

Vooks gives life to children’s storybooks. They have a one-month free trial, or it’s 4.99/month to sign up thereafter.

This site has a phenomenal resource chart organized by age, grade level, subjects, free resources offered, and a description. 

Little Passports has “global adventures” for kids with a current 15% discount on subscriptions. 

coronavirus autism

PBS Kids has amazing learning tools and resources for helping children understand scary events, as well as online games and videos.

Parents.com has an amazing virtual museum tour which includes world-class museums and art galleries.  Among the list are the Guggenheim in New York and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul.

A fantastic, relevant resource can be found on Homeschool Hideout! Check out their list of 150+ educational shows on Netflix.  

Want to watch your favorite celebrities read popular children’s books? Check out this YouTube channel for Kristen Bell, Oprah Winfrey, Betty White, and more doing some entertaining reading.

Thousand of documentaries to choose from might be just the thing for older kids. CuriosityStream has slashed their membership to $12 a year currently. That’s $1 per month for access to engaging documentaries that align with school curriculum. 

Want lessons that address the election process? Check out FreeKidsGuide.

Families can also do virtual visits to zoos; look up San Diego Zoo, Smithsonian National Zoo, Maryland, Memphis, or Houston. Some have webcams and/or live cams and videos. 

Autism Resources for Learning at Home during Coronavirus Outbreak

For families needing specific special needs resources, check out these links:

Carol Gray Social Story on coronavirus

Visual Schedules

Physical Activity

Token Chart

Daily Living Skills

Writing Programs

Transitions and Priming

Functional Communication and Choice Boards

Self Regulation and Emotional Expression

ABA Assistance for Parents at Home:

coronavirus autism

Little Bee Speech has a great list of apps to help with speech and language. 

It is not easy to go through a long-term school closure due to the pandemic affecting our world right now. Having our kids with autism at home may be difficult for parents and students alike. As we face daily life with a new routine, it’s important for us to do what we can to get through the day and feel good about it.

Go easy on yourself and your children. We haven’t experienced something this widespread and indefinite before. The resources provided here could be helpful to parents and caregivers as they fumble a bit to get through the day. Remember: one day at a time, one resource at a time.


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About Keri Horon

Keri is a special needs parent and a veteran high school English and journalism teacher turned writer. She enjoys reading, hiking, gardening, cooking, traveling, wine tasting, and practicing yoga. Both she and her son love to create art. She has a passion for educating people on all things autism. Visit her blog at www.kerimehome.com.

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