Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health and Safety Guide
ASERT has put together some resources for those with autism and those who care for people with autism relating to the current Coronavirus outbreak.
Coronavirus is an illness that can be spread from person to person through droplets – like from coughing or sneezing. You may hear it called coronavirus, COVID-19, or novel coronavirus.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to virus. Symptoms may include:
*Information provided by CDC website
If you have any of these emergency warning signs for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately:
This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning you.
Call 911 if you have a medical emergency: Notify the operator that you have, or think you might have, COVID-19. If possible, put on a mask before medical help arrives.
The coronavirus spreads easily from person to person, so it’s recommended that people practice something called “social distancing”. This means staying away from other people in order to avoid catching or spreading the virus. It also means that schools may close, events may be cancelled, or people may need to work from home.
This may mean that your normal daily routine will change, but this is okay. These changes are only temporary and are being done to keep you healthy.
This website is a collaboration between ASERT and Health Care Quality Units (HCQUs). This site is designed to connect individuals with disabilities, families, professionals, and community members with resources that can best serve them in emergency situations.
This website is the best place to find up to date information about coronavirus and it’s impact on Pennsylvania. The website is updated daily with information on number of cases by county, information about stay at home orders, links to additional resources and information on staying safe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website provides a wide range of information about coronavirus, including ways to stay safe, infection control, tips for caring for individuals who have coronavirus, and more.
This website provides information about coronavirus and it’s impact around the globe. Information includes country-specific information, travel advice, mythbusters, research and development, and more.
This resource, developed by ASERT, provides tips and information on how to make sure the information you’re receiving about the coronavirus is the best and most trustworthy information.
This resource, developed by the Center for Dignity in Healthcare For People With Disabilities, provides information to ensure that individuals with disabilities receive equitable care and treatment during COVID-19.
The “What to Know About Coronavirus” resource has been translated into the following languages:
Spanish Translation: Lo que hay que saber sobre el coronavirus
Chinese Translation: 新型冠状病毒 (COVID-19) 须知
Russian Translation: Что необходимо знать о коронавирусе (COVID-19)
Arabic Translation: ما ينبغي أن تعرفه عن فيروس كورونا (COVID-19)
Pennsylvania has created a guide for dealing with COVID-19. This website includes guidance and resources, with more information and services being added as they become available. Information includes cases in Pennsylvania, accessing healthcare, information for individuals, families, businesses, and schools.
Below you will find resources and information for parents, caregivers, direct support professionals, and individuals with autism to manage a variety of situations related to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This section will be changing as more information and resources become available, so check back often!
During this time of change and uncertainty, it may be even more difficult supporting and taking care of individuals with autism. With schools closed, activities cancelled and major disruptions to daily schedules and routines, some individuals with autism may struggle to cope. Below are some resources and information designed to help parents, caregivers, and direct support staff to support individuals with autism during this time.
There is a lot of information out there about coronavirus (COVID-19), and it can be overwhelming and hard to understand. Explaining the virus, and what needs to be done to stay healthy and safe, can be difficult. The resources below provide a visual explanation of coronavirus and some situations people may experience.
This resource provides a visual guide for individuals with autism about the coronavirus and how to stay healthy.
This social story is also available in Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic.
This resource provides a visual guide for individuals with autism on how to wash hands to help stay healthy.
This social story is also available in Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic.
This resource provides a visual explanation of what quarantine is, and what it means if someone has to quarantine themselves.
These resources provide a visual explanation of why it can help to wear gloves when in the community and how to properly wear them.
This short book was designed to support and reassure children regarding the COVID-19. The book provides a way to discuss the full range of emotions arising from the current situation. The book is designed to be printed and written/drawn on. This resource is available in multiple languages.
This guide from the National Association of School Psychologists provides guidelines for talking to children, information on keeping the conversation age appropriate, suggested talking points and additional resources. The Parent Resource is available in multiple languages.
The Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre has created a page on their website dedicated to COVID-19 and providing updates. They continue to add videos to this page with new information every few days.
This website provides information about communication supports for children and adults with complex communication needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For individuals who thrive on routines and schedules, being quarantined may mean changes to their normal daily activities. There are different ways to help individuals manage these changes, including:
Social stories can be a great way to explain changes, or new situations to individuals. There are many different social stories out there about COVID-19, including ones developed by ASERT (see above).
One simple way to create a social story is by using Microsoft PowerPoint, or similar presentation software. Use each slide to add text and images to tell the story. These can then be shared online, or printed and reviewed with individuals.
The following resources can help you develop your own social stories:
Visual schedules are a great way to help individuals understand what to expect. When there are changes in routine or activities, creating a visual schedule can help the individual understand the changes, and know what is coming next. The following resource provides information on visual schedules, how to create them, and how to use them with individuals who have autism:
While families are at home practicing social distancing or self-quarantine during the Covid-19 pandemic, meltdowns of family members may occur as a result of individuals being outside of their typical routines and feeling confined inside the same space. Use this resource as a guide to identify what a meltdown looks like, how they can be avoided, and how you should and should not respond if a meltdown would occur.
Keeping individuals active and engaged, while also limiting access to other people, can be challenging. Below are a variety of options and suggestions for keeping yourself and the people you support active!
Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities being created online for individuals to stay engaged. From school-based activities, to online museums, zoos and more, there are plenty of options for entertainment and education!
Cooking can be a great activity to keep people engaged, learn new skills, and a bonus is you get to eat the delicious food once you’re done!
It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Making some “Ants on a Log” with celery, peanut butter and raisins, or putting together a new snack mix of leftover cereal and pretzels, can be simple and easy ways to get individuals involved.
You can get individuals engaged by:
Dust off those board games and start playing! Simple card games, board games, and even puzzles can be a great way to pass the time. If you don’t have any of these available, get creative and make up some games of your own!
Twenty Questions, Eye Spy and other guessing games require only your imagination!
Have a home assistance like Google Home or Alexa? They have lots of games loaded and ready to go! Just ask them to play a game and let the fun begin.
Need more ideas? You can create a scavenger hunt around the house of items they need to find. Who can find them all first?
Although we should all practice social distancing at this time, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get outside! Thankfully warmer weather means a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy fresh air.
If the weather’s bad or you prefer to stay inside you can still stay active! There are plenty of online videos to get moving while inside. YouTube is a great place to find free workout videos for kids, teens and adults. Here are a few to check out:
All schools in Pennsylvania are closed through at least March 27th, 2020. While some school districts are providing students with activities to stay busy, not all districts may be able to provide those resources to their students. The websites below provide free access to a wide range of school activities for those parents interested in keeping their children active and engaged during this break.
Many services and supports have been disrupted for individuals and families due to social distancing and restrictions on services that can be provided.
Thankfully, requirements for certain services have been lifted, allowing providers to continue some services remotely, through phone or video calls. This is referred to as “telehealth”, and a wide range of services from medical appointments to behavioral health to supports coordination is able to be provided in this way at this time.
The Council of Autism Service Providers is a non-profit association of for-profit and not-for-profit agencies serving individuals with autism spectrum disorders. They have created a number or resources for providers around telehealth.
Maintaining both physical and mental health throughout this time is important for all individuals: parents and caregivers, direct support professionals, and individuals with autism. The resources below focus on ways to stay physically healthy, what to do if you are not feeling well, and ways to maintain your mental health during periods of social isolation.
This resource provides a visual guide for individuals with autism on how to wash hands to help stay healthy.
Social distancing means staying away from close contact with other people in social situations.
This resource provides a visual guide for individuals with autism about social distancing and why it’s important when people are sick.
If you have mild symptoms:
Please stay home. If you feel worse, contact your health care provider.
If you have severe symptoms:
If you have fever over 100 degrees, shortness of breath and cough, call your health care provider.
If you do not have a health care provider, call your local health department or 1-877-PA-HEALTH
If you still need help, call your local Emergency Department.
Many places are beginning to offer “drive through” testing sites, or online options, to be screened for coronavirus. Call you insurance company or healthcare provider to find out more about options available to you.
This resource, from the Council for Intellectual Disability, provides an easy-read guide for self-advocates to understand viruses, and things they can do to stay healthy.
Dealing with the coronavirus and it’s impacts can be stressful. Fears about the illness, trying to stay healthy, making sure you’re prepared and following all precautions can be overwhelming. Add in the recommendations for social distancing, and it can take a toll on mental health.
For individuals who already experience anxiety, the current situation can make it even worse. Taking care of your mental health, as well as those around you, is just as important as maintaining physical health. The tips below can help individuals with autism, parents, caregivers, and direct support staff all maintain good mental health during this time.
This resource from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) provides tips and resources for managing anxiety and stress related to COVID-19.
These resources developed by ASERT include additional information for parents, caregivers and individuals with autism on ways to manage social isolation and anxiety.
This resource collection from ASERT provides information on how to support individuals with autism and anxiety. Information includes general tips, managing panic attacks, and relaxation strategies like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery, and grounding techniques.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Helpline provides 24/7, 365-day-a-year crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human-caused disasters.
Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990
Deaf/Hard of Hearing: Text “TalkWithUs” to 66746, or
Spanish Speaking: 1-800-985-5990 and press “2”, or
From the 50 States, text “Hablanos” to 66746, or
From Puerto Rico, text “Hablanos” to 1-787-339-2663
Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Crisis Text Line trains volunteers to support people in crisis.
For those in Pennsylvania: text “PA” to 741741
For specific concerns about COVID-19: text “HOME” to 741741
For more information visit:
This article from the American Psychological Association provides tips and information on how to view the media coverage and information around COVID-19 without becoming overwhelmed and anxious.
How I See It is a series on PAAutism and ASDNext. In each installment, we ask people in the Pennsylvania autism community – individuals, family members, professionals and more – to share their thoughts on a particular topic.
This month’s topic is coronavirus – specifically, ways that they are dealing with social distancing, anxiety, isolation and staying healthy.
A resource for parents experiencing stress during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Are you finding that your family is experiencing more stress than usual due to heightened emotions and social distancing during the Covid-19 crisis? Do you need a guide to help you respond and process these situations? Remember, an escalated parent cannot de-escalate a child while in a heightened state, themselves. Use this resource as a tool to practice S.A.F.E and S.O.U.N.D!
A tool for managing family stress during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis.
While practicing social distancing during the Covid-19 crisis, family members may experience more stress than usual. One mechanism to combat stressful situations for families inside their homes would be to create a coping zone. A coping zone is an area inside a home where a family member can retreat to in times of high stress (i.e. their sibling with autism is having a hard time). It also acts as a private area where the individual can practice coping techniques and self-care when a stressful situation arises. Together with your family, use the 6 steps below to individualize a coping zone inside your home, and decide together how and when they could best utilize this space as a coping skill in stressful situations.
While families are staying inside to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it’s likely that parents will experience additional stressors than usual. In order for parents to uphold healthy and safe lifestyles for their families, they must practice maintaining their own wellness first! Use the wellness strategies below to stand up against the stressors in your life that you can control.
These resources provide some tips and suggestions for individuals and families to deal with some of the new situations brought about by COVID-19, like social distancing, isolation and planning for care.
This resource, developed by ASERT, provides helpful tips and information for parents on supporting siblings of individuals with disabilities during COVID-19.
Call or text friends, family and loved ones. You may not be able to see each other in person, but you can still call, text, or videochat to stay in touch.
There are plenty of activities that you can do to stay engaged while you’re at home. Read a book, catch up on favorite shows, do a puzzle or start a new hobby. For more ideas on ways to stay active while at home, check out the “Supporting Individuals” section of this page.
While your normal daily routine may be disrupted, it doesn’t mean you can’t create a new one. Get up at a regular time each day, change your clothes, and start your day as normal. Create a schedule of activities to provide some structure to your days. Make sure to include exercise and plenty of good foods to help keep you healthy.
Social stories and visual schedules can help when developing new routines. For more information on how to use these tools, visit the following resources:
The Department of Human Services (DHS) and Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) have dedicated websites with up to date information and resources for provider agencies, families and individuals regarding changes to services and programs due to COVID-19.
As a result of COVID-19, certain changes are being made to services and supports within the Office of Developmental Program (ODP) waivers.
For more information, please view the webinar hosted by Deputy Secretary Kristin Ahrens on MyODP.org
Staying connected while engaging in social distancing is important. Internet access is a valuable service during this time: allowing people access to information about COVID-19, access to school-related information, creating social connections to others, and access to other important resources.
However, not everyone has internet access in their homes, and for some individuals with low incomes or fixed budgets, adding an internet connection may not be possible. To help with this, some companies are offering free internet access to low income individuals.
For all new customers, Comcast is offering 2 months of free internet access. For existing Internet Essentials customers, they are increasing internet speeds at no cost. The program costs $9.95 per month, plus tax. There is no contract, no credit check, and no installation fee. You may qualify if you are eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Housing Assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and others.
Comcast Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots are also open and free to use by anyone.
Altice internet providers Suddenlink and Optimum are offering 60 days of free internet service for households with K–12 or college students. Internet speeds are up to 30 Mbps if you do not already have access to a home internet plan. To sign up, call 1-866-200-9522 if you live in an area with Optimum internet service, or call 1-888-633-0030 if you live in an area with Suddenlink internet service.
Households with students K–12 or university students can sign up for a new Charter Spectrum internet account to get the first two months of internet with speeds up to 100 Mbps for free. Installation fees will be waived for those who qualify for the offer. Call 1-844-488-8395 to enroll.
Spectrum Wi-Fi hotspots are also currently open and free to use.
There are government subsidies that can help with your internet bill, and many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer low-income internet programs. These inexpensive internet plans, income based programs, and low-income family plans help reduce the cost of staying connected.
Many community food banks are remaining open throughout the statewide shutdown of nonessential businesses. For individuals or families who have limited resources, or who aren’t working due to the statewide shutdown, local food banks can be a great source for food supplies.
211: Get Help from the United Way of Pennsylvania has a section dedicated to food/meals where you can search for resources in your community. They even have a section specific to those impacted by COVID-19.
It’s recognized that some families rely on no- or low-cost lunches provided through school. With schools closed for at least two weeks, this means that some families no longer have access to these lunches. Pennsylvania sought and received approval from the Federal government to allow schools the option to distribute meals at no cost while schools are closed. Pennsylvania Department of Education is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, other state agencies, the American Red Cross, and public and private partners to expand these efforts.
Please contact your local school district for information about availability of free lunches.
Many places of employment are providing their workers with paid time off for work closures due to coronavirus. However, if leave isn’t available, workers may apply for unemployment benefits.
Pennsylvanians are eligible for unemployment compensation in the following scenarios:
For faster processing, unemployment claims should be submitted online.
If you believe you have been exposed to the coronavirus while at work, you may be eligible for workers compensation as well. To check if you are covered you should:
For more information visit:
The Department of Health has created a page with information related to insurance coverage for COVID-19. For more information on testing coverage, health services, and help lines visit:
Unfortunately, in this time of financial uncertainty, there may be people out there who look to take advantage of others. There are scams around the stimulus checks provided by the government. The following resources provide information on how to identify potential scams, and what to do if you get caught in one.
This resource provides tips and suggestions for making sure that you’re getting the best and most trustworthy information related to coronavirus. There is information for the general community, as well as self-advocates.
These resources, developed by ASERT, provide information for self-advocates on potential scams around economic stimulus checks being sent as a result of COVID-19, as well as scams around the 2020 Census.
This resource provides information for individuals with disabilities to ensure equal care and services during COVID-19.
The eight Health Care Quality Units (HCQU’s) across the state are developing and sharing COVID-19 resources for individuals supported through ODP. To access their information and resources, visit the websites for each of the regions below:
Milestone HCQU West: Check out Milestone HCQU West’s app that includes lots of great information and resources, including ASERT’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health and Safety Guide. Download the app by visiting the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store and searching “Pocket HCQU.”
|Coronavirus||What to Know About Coronavirus||Download file: Coronavirus|
|Coronavirus: Spanish||What to Know About Coronavirus: Spanish Translation||Download file: Coronavirus: Spanish|
|Coronavirus: Russian||What to Know About Coronavirus: Russian Translation||Download file: Coronavirus: Russian|
|Coronavirus: Chinese||What to Know About Coronavirus: Chinese Translation||Download file: Coronavirus: Chinese|
|Coronavirus: Arabic||What to Know About Coronavirus: Arabic Translation||Download file: Coronavirus: Arabic|
|Coronavirus||Coronavirus Social Story||Download file: Coronavirus|
|Coronavirus||Handwashing Social Story||Download file: Coronavirus|
|Coronavirus||Social Distancing Social Story||Download file: Coronavirus|
|Coronavirus||Changes to Community Participation Support (CPS) During COVID-19||Download file: Coronavirus|
|Coronavirus||Being a Careful Reader of Coronavirus Research||Download file: Coronavirus|
This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.