Local parents raise Autism awareness, discuss challenges amid COVID-19 outbreak

Local News

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Coronavirus brings great challenges for students and parents when adjusting to school or working online. It can be even more challenging, though, for those with an Autism Spectrum Disorder who may not understand COVID-19 as easily.

For parents with students with Autism, they said they have to figure out different tactics to keep their kids focused.

As April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, parents are working to highlight the importance of representation.

Sometimes it’s using a whiteboard checklist to keep on track, and for helping them understand, one parent found using videos to explain COVID-19 was successful.  

Elementary student Matthew Campbell is on the Autism spectrum, and while he understands there are limitations to activities, he said he is eager to visit the park or a restaurant, “when the coronavirus is over.”

His parents found it was difficult for Matthew to understand the coronavirus. 

“How can we make Matthew aware of what’s going on in this world? So we pulled up some videos on YouTube, just some basic videos about the coronavirus, and so now Matthew is walking around saying ‘not this week,’” Campbell’s dad Calvert Campbell said. 

Helping children on the Autism spectrum understand the world we’re living in right now is just one obstacle.  

“He’s used to having his routine and ritual, even Christmas break and spring break is a big deal because he looks forward to going to school,” Michelle Rumfelt said about her son on the Autism spectrum. 

For Rumfelt and Jessica Rock, it’s now about making sure needs are met for their sons who are also on the spectrum.

“I think schedule and routine is very important, not just for children on the spectrum, but children in general,” Rumfelt said. “He benefits from it. He comes out and looks at it and knows exactly what’s he gotta do on what day.”

“He’s very schedule oriented, if you get off a schedule it really throws him off, so we had to make our own routine,” Rock said. 

There’s a reason it’s called a spectrum disorder. People on the Autism spectrum, function differently. 

 “You have children who are nonverbal, and unable to express their emotions and tell you what’s wrong and then you have children who are higher functioning and the lights flicking on or off can kind of throw them into a fit,” Rumfelt said. 

“You can’t just pinpoint one thing and be like this is how it should be, do what’s best for your kid,” Rock said. 

 For these parents, it’s about raising awareness, not just April 2 but always. Especially during this time of adjustment. 

In addition to trying to understand the virus itself, Rock found that her son was having a difficult time understanding how he can’t have a birthday celebration coming up, so she got creative and is asking for anyone and everyone to send him a letter.  

If you’d like to send him a card, the address is 512 Rosewood Street, Burkburnett TX 76354. 

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