Students with autism learning to cope with pandemic

Adapting to change: Students at the centre attending online lessons.Adapting to change: Students at the centre attending online lessons.

GEORGE TOWN: The Covid-19 pandemic can be especially difficult for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), who have a strong need for structure, predictability and specific routines and rituals.

Special needs educator Eileen Soon in Penang said her students are trying to adapt again to online learning due to the movement control order 3.0, implemented on May 10.

ASD is a neurological difference in the brain that causes an individual to process input from the world around them differently from others.

“Our students are a lot more adaptable, and all the MCOs have shaped and forced them to be flexible. Even rigid students are slowly understanding that if they don’t see their friends at our centre, they will see their friends online during lessons on Zoom.

“The only issue we face is that they get so comfortable with online learning that they won’t want to leave the house, ” she said.

Soon recalled the case of one student who needed a lot of preparation when MCO was lifted earlier to return to their centre.

She said some other students struggle to get into a proper structure of activities because staying at home all day and night had turned their schedules and routines upside down.

The ASD students still have their online lessons during MCO, two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon on weekdays.

“It’s going well for most of our students but it’s not easy for some. Some students pull out due to trouble with online learning.

“We work very closely with the parents. We try to support each other when issues arise and it helps us understand how to motivate our students to maintain a proper routine and stay healthy mentally, emotionally and physically during this time, ” she said.

There are currently 12 students enrolled in their vocational and transitional programme at Soon’s centre.

Four of the students are involved in preparing lunch sets for sale.

“Only the students doing lunch sets and making kombucha drinks still continue to work at our centre every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

“They have to put on their masks, maintain physical distancing and sanitise themselves regularly.

“To safeguard both our students and customers, we offer delivery and have customers pick up orders after doing cashless transactions, ” she said.

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