How to talk to children with autism about COVID-19

When it comes to COVID-19, parents of children with special needs should be honest with their children, give a visual, stick to a schedule and stay consistent.

One in 54 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So, how should parents of children with special needs talk to their kids about the coronavirus and staying safe?

“I think the most important thing is that they tell the truth in a way that they’re going to understand,” said Camila Rocha, the Education Services Director of Easterseals South Florida,

Raquel Regalado is the mother of two children with autism, including 16-year-old Bella. She said when the pandemic first hit, it was hard.

“There was a lot of anxiety, you know, and a lot of questions,” Regalado said.

Regalado went back to basics, creating a new routine for her kids.

Rocha said parents of children with disabilities need to be honest when it comes to the coronavirus.

“There is a germ, there is a virus out there -- that it’s dangerous to our health and we have to protect ourselves,” Rocha said.

Giving kids with special needs a visual can help explain concepts like social distancing.

“Maybe draw a square that is six feet big and tell them this is your space, your personal space,” Rocha said.

Rocha said it’s important to try and stick to a daily schedule.

“Try to make a routine that is not only easy for them to understand and follow but also to predict,” Rocha said.

Regalado and her kids go for a long walk every day to get exercise and she and Bella started a butterfly garden in their backyard.

“The key thing is to stay consistent,” said Regalado.

And most importantly, have fun together.

Regalado plans activities a week ahead to make sure she has what she needs in place to keep her kids busy and active. Rocha said if you are struggling during these difficult times, you’re not alone. There are resources out there that can help. The Children’s Trust offers free online resources for families. Go to for more information.