Local News

Free toolkit helps people with autism cope with pandemic

Posted April 9, 2020 10:41 a.m. EDT

— Families with loved ones on the autism spectrum have a new resource to help explain and cope with the pandemic.

A team at the UNC-Chapel Hill Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute created a free online toolkit with ways to explain the virus and stay-at-home measures. It includes coping and calming strategies, ideas about building new routines at home and ways to spot signs of anxiety and depression.

UNC-CH professor Dr. Kara Hume led the team that developed the toolkit. Once the pandemic forced schools to close, Hume said she and about 12 other UNC colleagues with expertise in autism and related fields met in an emergency Zoom video meeting to create the resources. 

Within 72 hours, it was ready.

People have downloaded the toolkit more than 100,000 times since it was launched late last month. It also has been translated into several different languages.

"You don't need to use every resource in the toolkit," Hume said. "Choose a tool or two that can best meet the need of the individual family."

Hume said the guidance on relaxation, including deep breathing and exercise routines, might be especially helpful.

"I think really targeting coping and calming skills will help all of us during this time," she said.

Hume said as the situation changes, be flexible and revisit resources in the toolkit to adapt to the situation.

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