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Meeting the Needs of Children with Autism During COVID-19

The NLMFF has provided a grant to the Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) to address the unique needs of the families they serve through their Autism Center during the COVID-19 pandemic. These families already have limited resources and barriers to accessing information to meet their children’s needs. As our entire society transitions to connecting exclusively through remote channels, accessing essential information has now become more difficult for the families they serve, many of whom do not have access to these modes of communication.

During this time, the Autism Center will act to ensure resources and information are available to families so that they can keep themselves and their children safe, prevent regression of skills, and promote as much learning and progress as possible. Toward that end, they will undertake the following steps to address the urgent needs of the families they serve:

  • Expand Helpline services and provide Parent Networking and Information Sessions, serving as a frontline responder to families of children with autism and other disabilities who are in need during this period. MAC and the Autism Center will intensify publicity of the Helpline’s enhanced capacity to support parents during the COVID-19 crisis and will increase Helpline staff in order to respond to the demand for Helpline support, including a new Spanish-speaking advocate to serve Spanish-speaking families of children with autism. In addition, the Center will hold remoteParent Networking and Information Sessions to provide parents with critical information about how to manage their child’s needs at home, and also address the extreme isolation faced by families.
  • Develop an online clearinghouse of resources and information for parents of children with autism and for professionals working with children. The clearinghouse will include educational resources for families of children with autism, including information about their legal rights related to COVID-19 and special education, including considerations for immigrant families.
  • Provide advocacy at the state and local level to make remote services available and accessible to all families of children with autism.  This effort will focus on the policies and practices necessary to support all children with autism while schools are closed, including children from low-income families and children from immigrant communities. The Autism Center will work closely with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to ensure that lesson plans and activities provided to general education students are provided in a way that is accessible for children with autism and other disabilities. Moreover, advocacy efforts will focus on ensuring access to remote opportunities for low-income families who do not have personal computers or home WiFi, and to families who do not speak English.