Adjusting to a new routine such as social distance due to COVID-19, can be stressful for everyone, especially for neuro-diverse individuals.
When teaching social distancing, it is important to:
- Give the facts
- Practice at home
- Give reminders about social distancing before and after leaving the home
- Provide praise and reinforcement for appropriate distancing.
1. Facts: What is Social Distancing?
According to the CDC, “Social Distancing, also called ‘physical distancing,’ means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home.” This means staying 6 feet apart from other people. It is also recommended to stay at home unless there is a reason to go out. These reasons can be:
- Going to the store
- Picking up food
- Going to the doctor
- Going to work
The reason why standing 6 or more feet apart is recommended is to keep germs from spreading. This applies to everyone, whether or not you are sick.
2. Practice at Home
It is best to begin practicing at home what it means to be physically distanced in the event of go out in public. Dr. Rebecca Shaffer, a Clinical Psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, gives a tip how to make 6 feet apart more concrete. The length of 6 feet is the length of:
- A bed
- 2 golden retrievers
- 2 arm’s length
Dr. Rebecca Shaffer recommends practicing this at home by:
- Standing at different ends of the individual’s bed and saying, ‘This is 6 feet apart’ or
- Holding your arms out and showing 6 feet of distance.
Social Stores can also be helpful to teach the individual what is expected of them in certain situations. The University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCCEDD) provides a social narrative PowerPoint about social distancing and is excellent for individuals who are visual learners.
3. Give Reminders
If you are planning to go out in public, it is important to prime the individual beforehand when this will occur. Be sure to give a large amount of time to the individual in order to provide reminders and practice social distancing before going out in public.
According to Dr. Shaffer, “when you are out in public, you may want to stay close to the individual so that you can easily prompt them to keep 6 feet distance.” Depending on the age of the individual, the prompts will be different:
- For a younger child:
- Practice holding hands in public so that you can make sure you are 6 feet apart
- For older individuals:
- Modeling (Show):“Look how they are standing 6 feet apart”
- Verbal (Tell): “Remember be a bed away from a person”
4. Provide Praise and Reinforcement
When the individual is successfully demonstrating the social distancing skill, we want to provide:
- Praise for appropriate distancing when they are doing it well by pointing it out, or
- Reinforcement for following the skill
- Example: “You can have (reinforcer) every __ minutes you are keeping 6 feet apart.”