A Reflection and Response to COVID-19


When it comes right down to it, the only way to face a crisis that makes any sense at all - is together.  - Phil Callaway

This article originally appeared in START Connecting in March 2020. Please visit our website for information and resources to provide support for families and schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

I am starting this article with a phrase we have heard repeatedly over the past two weeks - we are living in unprecedented times. Although this is true, it is a statement that hardly conveys the magnitude or impact of this situation on individual lives and communities. In this present moment, we can only see snapshots of all the ways this is impacting people. This is a difficult time, but it is temporary, and we will return to a semblance of our pre-coronavirus lives. As much as we are encountering daily challenges that are disconcerting with few clear answers, it has been extraordinarily heartening to see the many ways people have come together so quickly and compassionately to help each other and figure out this unique situation we find ourselves in. 

I suspect that many of you were in a similar place as us when a week ago we heard of the school closings. You too might have asked “what do we do and where do we start?” Here at START, we read every guidance that came through from the state and federal government, reviewed trusted websites, and began pulling together information and resources that could be helpful to school staff and families. It’s not an extraordinary act, but it is a start.

Within a matter of days, there were many resources available, from social stories on the coronavirus to a Free COVID-19 Toolkit for supporting individuals with ASD. These are just small examples of how people began to act with the needs of families and children in mind. As a project, we will continue to be a resource to the autism community and share the best resources that we find to help families and school professionals cope with the changes in their lives. 

What we each do as organizations or individuals will vary. All of our situations are different. Whatever you decide to do and how you handle it will be okay. Most important, we need to take care of ourselves and those around us in whatever ways we can. We are sure you’ve seen people respond in many ways. If throwing yourself into volunteering gives you energy and connection, there are many opportunities, such as your local school organization, food bank, or United Way. Some people are conducting online teaching or tutoring sessions, or delivery learning packets to kids. Or you can let people know you care by sending postcards – if you write 5 postcards a day, you can reach 50 people within 10 days (although we have heard it is not always easy to find postcard stamps!). Perhaps your quest for the week is to find toilet paper so you can purchase a few rolls to both stock up and share. Realistically, for some people, managing their homes and families and getting through the day is a feat on its own -- that is OK too. 

So…you might be asking yourself, Am I doing the right thing? Who knows what the right thing is during these unprecedented times. The better question is, Am I doing the best I can given the current situation? The likely answer is yes. Above all, take care of yourself, your family, and your community. 

If you are looking for resources, visit our website, Facebook, and Twitter and if you have resources to share, please send them to us to share with others: autismed@gvsu.edu. The START team is still working (remotely) so we are available – feel free to reach out to us. Stay well and take care! 

Written by: Amy Matthews, Ph.D., BCBA - Project Director

Resources

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