COVID-19 Information and Resources
We are in this together.
We care deeply about the well-being of our community, and we urge everyone to follow best practices to stay safe and healthy during this time.
The situation around the current spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is changing rapidly, so make sure you stay informed by visiting The Public Health Agency of Canada website regularly.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is a reliable source of information, as are provincial and territorial public health authorities. They publish updated information including travel advice and useful resources. We recommend all Canadians access these resources.
- The World Health Organization published an action kit for families and schools for COVID-19 related closures.
- Autism Speaks Canada is always here to help and support the autism community. Please call our Autism Response Team at 1-888-362-6227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and access to tools, resources and supports.
Below is a list of resources for the autism community organized by topic.
In general, the best way to protect yourself or your family members looks very similar to best practices for all people to prevent other viral illnesses, such as seasonal flu.
Healthy habits can help protect you and your family. This includes good handwashing, limiting contact with people and keeping an appropriate distance from others.
To help prevent coronavirus the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends:
- Use good handwashing hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with hot water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if you can’t get to soap and hot water.
- Avoid contact with others. Viruses such as COVID-19 spread through close contact.
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth, and remind family members – especially children – of the importance of this important safeguard.
- Please stay home as much as possible.
- If you are feeling unwell, stay home. If you must go out, use a mask over your nose and mouth to prevent spreading your illness.
- Use a tissue to cover any coughs or sneezes and discard immediately. If a tissue is not available, use your elbow.
- Disinfect common surfaces where a virus could survive, such as doorknobs, railings and light switches.
If you are caring for a child or family member with autism, it’s important to talk with them about coronavirus to ensure they have the information they need, but without unnecessarily frightening them.
- What is coronavirus? (a pdf guide).
- Expert guidance for talking about frightening events
- Talk with your children before they hear about it elsewhere, so you can understand what they know and provide facts appropriate to their age and understanding.
- Communicate in a way that your child prefers, such as pictures or stories. This flu teaching story may be helpful.
- Allow your child to process the information. That may mean they “play out” or talk about fearful topics, but you can be on hand to reassure them and answer questions.
- Communicate with your support system, including school contacts, caregivers and support groups.
- Be on the lookout for changes in routine or other signs of distress. Your child may need additional supports if they are feeling stressed or anxious.
- Be a source for reassurance and positivity to help your child feel safe through frightening situations.
Public Health Agency of Canada also provides a list of awareness resources and tools. You can access them free here.
If your local school district closes during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, you may be faced with a number of obstacles. For children with autism, the school closure may mean disruption to learning support services your child receives at school.
First, prepare for childcare arrangements.
- Most companies are allowing employees to work from home. If your employer allows it, prioritize social distancing and work from home.
- No matter the length of the closing, you will need to arrange first and foremost to have your child supervised. If you are unable to take leave from work, or doing so would present financial hardship, reach out to your friends and family. Many families are arranging childcare sharing arrangements, where parents in two or more families take turns caring for a few children. Or, you may know a local parent or have a family member who does not work outside the home who could care for your child temporarily.
- Make sure to consider the support needs for all the children in any temporary arrangement to ensure everyone’s safety.
- Prepare information about your child’s support needs and successful learning and behaviour strategies for anyone who will be caring for your child.
Then, talk to your child’s school about closing plans.
- Your child’s school-based services will depend on the type of school closing. If learning is also not scheduled, such as for a short-term closure to deep clean, then those services may not continue during the closure. If the school uses virtual learning during a closure, then the school is legally required to continue providing services to your child, although they will need to be adapted to the new learning environment. For more details about your individual situation, refer to the Department of Education’s guidance on the type of closure in your school.
- Reach out to your child’s support team and the school administrators to find out about plans for special education services in the event of a closure.
- If needed, reach out to your child’s developmental providers for recommendations and backup plans for in-home services.
- To support your child’s learning while school is closed, you can also ask your child’s current providers for instructions and techniques you can use in your home. Talk to your service providers about their emergency plans.
The Household Checklist also includes some of the following recommendations:
- Develop an emergency contact list and discuss emergency plans with your family, including extended relatives, as well as friends and neighbours you may include in your plan. Include names and numbers of everyone in your personal autism support network, as well as your medical providers, local law enforcement, and emergency responders.
- Contact local organizations who may be able to help if you need support.
- Check and restock your household medical supplies, such as a thermometer, fever-reducing medications and other medications you may need for co-occurring medical conditions. You may want to include this as part of an emergency supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash and important documents. Locate your child’s individualized education plan if you have one, and any medical records or evaluations you may have related to autism. Many of these documents will have recommendations on areas to focus on and can help you with making learning plans while schools are closed.
- Ensure you have enough food and other household necessities. Avoid panic buying. Add a few extra items to your cart every time you shop. This places less burden on the suppliers and can help ease financial burden on you as well. Also, do not forget to renew and refill your prescriptions to make it easier to avoid leaving home during times of restricted movement.
- Reach out to others to maintain social support for the whole family. Autism Speaks Canada social media, social media groups for autistic people and their families, and other virtual support groups are some online resources for finding empathy and ideas while your family is homebound.
You may also find these resources helpful:
- Follow the Department of Education's Information and Resources for Schools and School Personnel.
- Many of Autism Speaks Tool Kits are available in several languages, and more are being translated to respond to family needs during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Autism Speaks Canada also offers, ASC CONNECT, a free web-based resource that supports the autism community in accessing information and engaging with each other.