5 Ways to Talk to Kids with Disabilities About COVID-19


Children with autism or developmental disabilities often struggle with any disruption in their normal routine. With schools closed and some essential services discontinued, it’s important to keep kids informed and calm about what’s going on.

Brighter, Stronger Foundation is dedicated to serving families and individuals with behavioral health needs. Learn 5 ways for parents to talk to their children about COVID-19 -- or any major disruption -- to minimize stress on your family.

Talking to Children with Autism About COVID-19

1. Be Clear

Kids need to know what’s going on in language they can understand. Instead of keeping them in the dark, tell them what is going on. Some language that may be helpful:

  • “There is a virus going around. Viruses are invisible, and they make people sick. Staying home helps us stay healthy.”
  • “There is a new sickness being spread between people. Our bodies have never seen it before, and it is making lots of people sick. School is closed so you and your friends don’t get sick.

Children don’t need every detail, so don’t volunteer too much information. Ensure they know that every sniffle is not the coronavirus, and if they’re staying home, there is a low chance of getting it.

2. Use Visual Stories

Social stories are helpful ways to help kids with autism or developmental disabilities understand concepts. They can help children understand situations by giving them both words and pictures to help them visualize a scenario or behavior. Click here for a coronavirus social story to use with your child.

3. Talk About How to Stay Safe

Develop a family plan for staying healthy and safe. Practice frequent hand washing, covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, and the same basic hygiene steps. Encourage these hygiene behaviors, but monitor for extremes such as obsessive hand washing or anxiety about coughing or sneezing. Encourage hygiene, but be sure to avoid making kids even more anxious.

4. Keep Communication Open

We’re all getting daily updates and information is everywhere, and it’s easy to forget that kids don’t have the same awareness that we do. Just being open and available as a comforting resource is crucial for children, and having a parent or adult they trust being there will help reduce stress.

Being forthcoming with information when asked is more helpful than leaving things out -- kids tend to worry more when they don’t know what’s going on. Just be sure to keep the answers appropriate to their age and developmental stage.

5. Manage Behavior Affected by Anxiety

Anxiety manifests in ways we might not expect. A child who is acting out, having more tantrums, or who is more sensitive may be experiencing stress and anxiety. Maintaining their routine as much as possible is difficult, especially if essential services are unavailable. However, even a different routine can help manage maladaptive behaviors.

These are difficult times, and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, uneasy, or worried about your child’s needs. Take care of yourself so you’re available to take care of your child, and recognize that you’re not alone. When talking to your child, reassure them that this pandemic will end, and we’ll get through this together.

Brighter Stronger Foundation

6 Nashua Court Suite B,

Baltimore, MD 21221

Phone. 410-574-0000 F:410-574-0002


Brighter Stronger Foundation

3465 Boxhill Corporate Center Dr.,

Ste 200,

Abingdon, MD 21009