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Physical distancing for children with autism

Caroline Benkovic, autism spectrum disorder consultant with McMaster Children’s Hospital at the Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre

One of the most important changes in the way we live because of COVID-19 is practicing physical distancing when we’re in the community.

To help your child with autism get ready for school, they will need to learn physical distancing, which is keeping a safe space of at least two metres away from other people.

Here are a few tips when teaching physical distancing that could be further adapted for your child.

Explain why

Information is power. Provide an explanation of why physical distancing is needed. A social narrative can be used to help with understanding.

It is important that your child understands when physical distancing is needed, for example at school, and when physical distancing is not needed, for example at home with family.

Show how

You can teach your child what two meters looks like by stretching out your arms, having your child stretch out their arms and not allowing your fingers to touch. Let your child know that this is a safe distance.

Also, when reading books or watching videos, point out examples of people who are physically distancing from each other.

Practice makes progress

At school, your child’s class can be set up with mats or tape on the carpet to help each child stay within their own space and physically distance. You can create and practice the same idea within a specific area of your own home just to have your child continue to practice what a safe distance is and for them to stay in their spot.

Practice makes progress as this is a new skill for all of us.