Coronavirus and Students with Autism

At TACA, we understand that many parents are overwhelmed with questions and stress during this time of uncertainty. This article will give you some resources that may answer your questions and set your mind at ease.


Do you have questions about public special education services and its legal obligations during school closures for COVID-19? Here are some resources for you:

What if I Work and Need Time Off?

Family Medical Leave Act

If you work and need to stay home to care for your child while they are out of school, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may help. FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.

  • UPDATE: Because of the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R.6201) on March 18, 2020, protections under FMLA have been expanded, requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. Contact your company’s Human Resources Department to find out if you are eligible for benefits under this program.

Disability Insurance

If you have Disability Insurance coverage, which many employers offer, you may be protected if you are unable to work due to having/being exposed to coronavirus.

  • You can only claim disability benefits if a doctor or other medical professional verifies that you are unable to go to work
  • State quarantine mandates do not qualify you for disability benefits.

Unemployment Insurance

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Programs provide unemployment benefits to eligible workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own and meet certain other eligibility requirements.

  • The federal government is allowing new options for states to amend their laws to provide unemployment insurance benefits related to COVID-19.
  • To determine your eligibility and to apply, you will need to check your state’s unemployment insurance program rules.

What To Do At Home

Remember: You are not responsible for recreating your child’s school day. Do the best that you can.

Your child’s routine has been interrupted. Allow them the time to deal with that change. Take this extra time at home as a chance to reconnect and bond. Follow your child’s interests and let them learn naturally.

Learning Isn’t Just About Academics

Pick a few IEP goals you feel comfortable working on and focus on those. Make a visual schedule or checklist to keep everyone focused.

  • Play outside
  • Read together
  • Play board games
  • Make a sidewalk chalk obstacle course
  • Exercise or do yoga
  • Play with sensory bins
  • Teach basic cooking skills i.e. make a sandwich, get a snack
  • Work on chores together
  • Work on communication skills by calling and video chatting with friends and family
  • Check with your child’s therapy providers to see if they are open and offering sessions for clients who are healthy
  • TACA’s private Facebook Group for parents has a number of great conversations with ideas and tips to keep kids occupied
  • Pretend it’s summer break and check out more suggestions here
  • This article about homeschooling has some tips and ideas for teaching your child at home

Use Technology

Helping Your Child Cope

Anxiety is a huge issue for many of our kids – especially when their schedules are disrupted. Remember, behavior is a form of communication – behaviors that appear to be disruptive are likely your child’s way of telling you they are scared or worried.

  • AFIRM’s “Supporting Individuals with Autism Through Uncertain Times” has great support strategies that are designed to meet the unique needs of individuals with autism during this period of uncertainty.
  • Guide to Managing Stress and Anxiety During COVID-19 from the CDC
  • Some parents are reporting that Mindfulness Apps, such as Calm and Stop, Breath, and Think for Kids, are helping both their kids and themselves effectively manage stress and anxiety
  • Reach out and connect with others through video chats and phone calls. Hearing the voices and/or seeing the faces of family, friends, therapists, and favorite teachers can help overcome feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Exercise is essential for a healthy immune system and is also a great way to relieve stress.
    • School of Strength has fitness videos led by Special Olympics athletes and WWE star Becky Lynch.
    • Lots of fitness companies are offering free online trials. Peloton has videos for walks, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness in addition to strength training and biking.

Social Stories

Social Stories are a great tool that you can use to help your child understand what is going on and what to expect. Here are a couple of examples:

Why people are wearing masks and how to wear one themselves:

  • Seeing People Wearing Masks is a social narrative that explains why people are wearing masks.
  • We Wear Masks is animated social narrative that talks about corona virus, wearing masks,and social distancing.
  • Why are we wearing masks? is a social narrative reading that discusses staying home, social distancing, wearing a mask when leaving home, making a mask, and practicing wearing a mask (and not touching it).
  • Video model of a young girl putting on her mask.
  • Wearing a Mask coloring book.

Additional Support


4 thoughts on “Coronavirus and Students with Autism

Add yours

  1. I would love a video social story of why school is closed and what the coronavirus is all about on a level my 15 ear old son with autism could understand. When I try, he say “ no coronavirus “ as a response to washing hands more often, his school has not been canceled yet but I think it will be. If we don’t know anything how are we supposed to explain it?? Thank you! Carol B.

    1. going on around them, even when it appears they are not paying attention. Given that anxiety is a huge issue for many with autism, it is important for us, as parents, to be mindful of the conversations our children are exposed to. has a great Social Story about COVID-19:

      How to Talk with Your Kids About Coronavirus:

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