COVID-19 and Autism – June 11 Update from CEO Lynn RicciJune 11, 2020
Pandemic hasn’t slowed the need for autism care – service expansion even more critical now
The events of recent months have offered many lessons about our patients, our health care systems, our communities … and our resilience. Many of our patients living with complex medical issues have been more acutely impacted by the challenges our new reality has created than most – including families impacted by autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Many families raising a child or teen with ASD faced chronic, critical gaps in access to care and some cycled in and out of crisis – before the pandemic. We had been rolling out new and expanded community-based services as quickly as we could to meet the rising tide of need – and we had broken ground on a new, expanded Autism Inpatient Unit and first-of-its-kind in Connecticut partial hospital program. We had just launched the community phase of a capital campaign to close our fundraising gap.
And then there was a global pandemic that stopped everything – or didn’t. Chronic diseases and conditions like autism do not disappear just because we have a public health crisis. Disruption in routine, loss of in-home supports, challenges with distance learning, and financial hardship have magnified the stressors families face.
We made an immediate commitment to pivot and continue to serve as many of our patients as we could safely reach. COVID-19 has required us to develop new tools to support families in our care and we have learned so much along the way.
- We ramped up telehealth treatment options in just a few days – and these virtual visits quickly outpaced all expectations. The platform offers so much promise for the future including providing a safe approach to treatment when a child’s behaviors may be too unsafe for a car trip to see a therapist. The shift to virtual care has even provided our practitioners with unique opportunities to observe children in their home and family environment – a silver lining that can enhance intervention strategies.
- Parent training remains a critical component of our inpatient care model – even when families can’t visit the facility. Our creative team quickly adapted training techniques to virtual platforms to ensure families build the skills they need to ensure their child’s successful return to the community – and developed video tutorials to provide supports to help families maintain skill and behavioral gains during quarantine.
- Our patients and their families, hands down the leading experts in living with ASD, continue to inspire and drive each innovation, sharing their successes and their struggles to help us improve care.
Essential Care, Essential Progress
As we tackled each new challenge the pandemic presented to ensure essential care continued, we have had a beacon of hope rising in our back yard. Construction on our new autism facility has continued, uninterrupted by COVID-19. Children in our existing Autism Inpatient Unit watch the progress every day, fascinated. They don’t know that every last detail has been designed specifically to meet their needs. They don’t know that the pandemic has interrupted our community fundraising for the project.
They do know that this marvelous new building rising before their eyes is just for them. They know there will be swing sets. They know that they matter and we are investing in their future.
See how far we’ve come. See how much we’ve learned. This is resilience.