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Talk to your kids about Covid 19, with Amanda Mc Guinness @theautismeducator – All About YOU! Episode 34

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Welcome back to the All About Audiology podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Lilach Saperstein. I’m an educational audiologist and a clinical audiologist, although I’m not working at the moment due to the Covid19 pandemic that’s going on, as I’m sure it is affecting you and your families, and all of us around the world. So, today I wanted to talk a little bit about ways for coping, and for helping ourselves and our children and our families get through this period of time, this period of uncertainty, and I got a couple of tips for you.

Now dealing with being home, we’ve all seen the memes going around but I think it’s really, really important to notice and acknowledge that our children and children in general are very attuned to the energy and the things that are being said around them. When children see fear and panic and overwhelm, then they take that in, they take it in and they take it on. It’s a big struggle for us as parents to also take care of everything and be in charge of everything, and try and keep the peace and keep everyone fed and even put in some learning, along with all of this missed school time for our kids. But a major, major priority has to be their hearts, has to be the peace in the home, and focusing on strengthening the bonds and the relationship. We really have to make this time not just a really beautiful amount of quantity of time, lots of time together, which is unusual for most families, but also making sure that some of that is also quality time of connection and of being together.

And I fully appreciate that missing school for many children also means not having access to the therapies, the school based therapies that they’re receiving, especially the ones that really require the equipment in the school, such as the play gems for physical therapy, and the equipment of occupational therapy. Of course, there is also the feeding therapist and speech therapy and a lot of things can be done remotely, there can be exercises that the therapist can send, but it’s going to take time to adjust to those different schedules and those different environments. And you know, just because things are being sent home, materials are being sent home or exercises, it doesn’t mean that you as a parent are trained or qualified or capable or want to be playing the role of their teacher and OT and PT and SLP or whatever other therapies they’re receiving, on top of all the responsibilities of parenting, which has now become an extra full time situation.

And this is not to mention the other things being disrupted such as surgeries being postponed and new babies who had a newborn hearing screening and might require follow up diagnostics. In the following weeks, a lot of those appointments will not be able to be kept. And I saw a very moving post of a family on Facebook who were writing that they recently received the diagnosis of their child’s hearing loss. And they had received a series of appointments coming up with the geneticist, with an ophthalmologist to check the eyes, and all these different appointments that now will be postponed, they won’t be getting hearing aids for another little while.

And I just really wanted to make this episode all about YOU and all about this experience, how it’s affecting you and your family in terms of Audiology. You’re really acknowledged you’re really seen this is absolutely difficult. And I give you permission and I give myself permission, I give all of us the space and the container to admit that this is hard to look at this and know that uncertainty feels really unsafe and that our bodies are not grounded. And to first of all know that it’s perfectly reasonable to feel this way. There needs to be a heightened awareness. There needs to be alertness. And it’s very natural for us to turn that on high and go into panic and go into overdrive. But we can also practice slowly, a moment at a time of coming back to the present and coming back to supporting ourselves and creating an environment that is loving and is wholesome. And that will also help your child progress in their academic and therapeutic goals, not at the expense of everyone’s peace of mind and emotional well being and mental health.

If your family is an ASL family, or if you’re interested in learning American Sign Language or any sign language, now is actually a really amazing time. Because all of the things that have been virtual in this space are now becoming even more and more amplified. For example, there’s the #operationASLstorytime where people are reading books in ASL. And there’s hundreds of videos on Instagram, on Facebook, and on Twitter that you can now find using that #operationASLstorytime, that’s a really great way to have more linguistic exposure, or get in some of those virtual ASL lessons.

There are lots of resources in that space. And I think this is a great way to use that “screentime”, which we are not afraid of. Screens are part of our life, screens are part of the way we communicate and they are a wonderful, wonderful resource at this time, specifically, when everyone is staying home to help flatten the curve and stop the spread of this virus. We have the privilege and the blessing of having so many online resources. The fact that I can even still be communicating with you, putting out the podcast, doing Facebook Lives, hanging out with you guys on Instagram. All of these are a real privilege.

We also have to acknowledge and appreciate the privilege of having enough screens, and internet access and all of these things because it’s not something that all families have access to. And I really see that as well. Everybody on all sides of this are, you know, struggling to adapt, teachers are having to all of a sudden become online teachers and create online curriculum out of nowhere, and students are expected to attend class but they’re home in their pajamas. And everything is topsy turvy. This is just the first couple of days of this. But as we start to adjust, we as a culture, as a society, as humans, we are resilient and we will rise to the challenge and new routines will emerge. It’s important to be able to communicate that this is very serious and at the same time try and maintain our composure, especially in front of our kids.

And just as a reminder, again and again, please continue to practice social distancing, and wash your hands!

Now, in explaining this to children, there have also been amazing resources. There are great videos. And I also saw a really nice social story that is geared towards children with autism. But all children can benefit from this kind of storytelling with very simple formatting and words of explaining what’s going on. And an adorable and lovely video from ASLsavvy on Instagram, where she and her sister explain what’s going on and what the corona virus is and how to protect yourself in ASL. So, there’s lots of resources for speaking to your children about this.

But I also think it is super important to be honest with our children and to say, ‘I don’t know’, when they ask, ‘When are we going to go back to school? Why is everybody freaking out?’ Just explain to them what the precautions are and what’s going on in the world appropriately to their level and to their understanding and communication. But not to keep children in the dark because that is really scary. And their imaginations go much, much further than anything that’s actually going on. And know that the weight of a secret or the weight of something being kept from children is very, very heavy and often heavier than the thing we’re trying to protect them from.

LS: “I want to introduce you.”

Amanda McGuinnes: “I suppose, if it’s in relation to the resource, I suppose I go by The Autism Educator online, or Little Puddins, The Autism Educator, it’s just I’d be more well known for my family blog,, that’s been around for five or six years.

LS: “Little…?”

AM: “Little puddins, it’s like, did you ever hear someone say, ‘Oh, he’s a little puddin.’ “

LS: “No, I haven’t but it’s such a cute little term.”

AM: “It’s really an Irish thing, where they say, ‘you’re such a cute child’, or if you’re going to see a new baby, the Irish people say, ‘Oh, he’s a real little puddin’, like a little cutie.”

LS: “Little pumpkin, little muffin, cutie pie.”

AM: “Yeah, exactly. That’s it, exactly.”

LS: “Got it. Okay, so, I would like to introduce Amanda Mc Guinnes from The Autism Educator Online to come and talk to us about the amazing resources that have been going around. I saw it and I said, ‘Who made this? It’s amazing. I need to get her on the show.’ So, welcome Amanda.”

AM: “Thank you very, very much. Thanks a million.

I’m glad to be here. Tell us a little bit about why you made this and what the response has been about it.

I created the social what would I call it a social narration for children like my own that have autism and also just children in general that will be afraid right now with what’s happening in the world and there’s been a lot of disruption to their own days like schooling and maybe parents home from work. They’re not used or maybe they’re not able to enjoy childcare. They’re not okay. and whatnot. So for me, I just wanted to create attorney vs any fears and anxiety anxieties that might have because my middle son jack in particular, would be quite anxious around change routine, obviously he’s autistic. So that was kind of part and parcel with jack. So for him, the idea was that increase the resource, and we would talk to him and his older brother Connor, he has moderate to severe autism. So for him, I’m not too sure how much of it he grasps, you know, a different, I suppose, have different pages within the resource that’s prepared so they could use and include whichever pages apply to them, because everyone’s life is so different. And obviously, with them being autistic, it’s a very visual resource, you know, there’s very limited language, but it is very specific, and even includes the page which really in a social ratio, you would normally keep saying that I will be happy and I don’t have to worry at all. And, you know, most people might say, oh, that should be in a social story Association. And there they are correct. But I think in these in certain circumstances, where we find ourselves now, it’s important to maybe provide that extra reassurance and again, it’s on a page by page format, so for some parents, not everything will apply. So they can include or not include what they want. So for me, it was the points that I was creating for my own sons, why not share it online to help others? I mean, I could have just had just printed it off once and deleted it. But I thought if I share it online, hopefully it’ll help other children. But I had no idea. It would have this many children. It’s totally blown up.

So what is a social narration for people who don’t understand that genre?

Yeah, I suppose to explain this. Very basically, it’s just a resource that would help children like my own that have autism, understand or contextualize what’s happening in the world or whatever it can be even down to when I say example, when I go to town, what I what I shouldn’t, shouldn’t do, or just basically it’s understanding what’s happening, and to have their own understanding what’s happening and be able to apply that into their own lives, if that makes sense. And can you tell us how we can get that resource? You can download it for free from Google I just spell it out because I suppose I’m Irish, not ever maybe kind of semi accented that you can download it from www on the Autism or www dot little poems today. So I hope that makes sense. You can just download the same resources on both websites and look at plugins as our family blog we’ve had it for I’ve had it for about five or six years. And on that there’s lots of free printables and lots of educational resources to download that again, that I would have created for my own children. And then I I suppose pop it up online for parents to download or professionals and teachers to use for free because my perspective was always if I’m creating it for my own children, why not share it with other people? Why deletion and all? It doesn’t see the light of day again, like I created the corona virus social narration and didn’t share it online. Like from my perspective is all like my son’s brilliant teachers. I was in my mind, I was saying, well, I might help them on the day when the school closes, they might have my friends who are parents and their children are worrying. So for me, I could have deleted it, but why would I do that when it could help the greater good so I put it up online, and hopefully it will help.

How many people have downloaded it?

Oh, God. I don’t know. I don’t even know But all I say is it’s just crazy. I’ve been like contacted by people in Africa and every part of Europe all over America Canada, just asking for help and Canada I’m absolutely share it with your students absolutely share it with your clients, you know, because that’s what it’s there for. It’s to help and, and a few times I’ve adapted it, where people have come back and said, Could you add in that page? Or could you add in more, you know, different types of characters? And I do, and now it’s been translated, it’s been translated into different languages now as well. So again, I’m not bilingual. So I’m asking the people that want the support for that. If they could send me the translations, then I will upload a translated version for other people then. So we’re all kind of working together as community all these people around the world. It’s amazing. Yeah, thank you so much for coming on our,

our wee little podcast here in Israel.

Not at all. Look, I’m even like, I mean, like I spoke to someone from Israel today. It’s amazing. And thanks for even uncouth me.

LS: Thank you. Again, thank you so much for coming on the show and definitely put all the Links in and thank you for creating it, we really appreciate it.

No, no, it’s my hope you stay safe.


Dr. Lilach Saperstein :
So if you are home with your child, and they are missing all of their audiology and speech therapy appointments, some of the things I wanted you to keep in mind during this time is to make sure that you have all the equipment and accessories and batteries and things that you need for their devices, and that you’re stocked up on those things to make sure that you can keep your child in sound. And if there’s any small troubleshooting things that come up, that you’re going to know how to handle those. So I have a troubleshooting video over at

I’m going to post it in the show notes of here, and also a blog post with a couple of ideas for games for auditory games and listening games to encourage progress. In their auditory skills in a very relaxed and gentle at home part of the everyday life kind of way. And you can find that blog post on the website slash kids at home, And that was based off of a Facebook Live that I did earlier this week. So I’d love for you to join the Facebook group and you can join live and we do Q and A’s, and it’s really fun to interact with you guys over there. That’s the all about audiology Facebook group. And I did want to mention that I’m doing a special offer over the next couple of weeks for my one on one counseling sessions. For any of you listeners, I do coaching, advising and advocating helping all of us to navigate all of this, understanding the diagnosis, knowing our options, being able to read the reports and knowing how to talk about our child’s hearing loss, how to adapt now in this day and age with all the assistive technologies In what to do, but most of all, I’m here for you. And my biggest mission is supporting families as a whole, and looking at how this is affecting you as a caregiver, any of you who are navigating and possibly struggling with the challenges that come with having hearing loss. So I’m looking forward to hearing from you and working with you. I hope that you all stay safe and healthy and grounded and full of peace and full of love. And also it’s okay if you have freak outs, and it’s okay if your children have a tantrum and or your I have a tantrum once in a while. That’s going to happen and it’s part of human nature. But what we can do is notice it and come back to ourselves and apologize if we’ve made a mistake and move on and try and create a really beautiful dynamic in a new, uncertain time.

I’m Dr. Lilach Saperstein and this is the all about audiology podcasts.

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