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What to expect at the Thompson Autism Center during COVID-19

Changes due to COVID-19 can be stressful for everyone, but especially for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their families. Here are some tips from a CHOC psychologist on helping your child with autism understand and cope with COVID-19.

Some families may be worried about going to a healthcare facility or doctor’s office during the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, more than ever, it is important for children with ASD to stay on schedule with clinical appointments, to prevent or address physical and mental health problems.

The Thompson Autism Center at CHOC Children’s is taking extra steps to help patients continue to get the care they need safely and with minimized stress.

Safety precautions

The Thompson Autism Center has implemented the following precautions to ensure the safety and well-being of patients, families and staff and decrease the risk of spreading illness:

  • A week before, as well as the day before your appointment, you will receive a phone call from a Thompson Autism Center staff member who will ask a series of screening questions related to COVID-19 exposure. These questions may include, “Have you or anyone in your family been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past two weeks? Have you or anyone in your family, been sick with cough, fever, runny nose, shortness of breath or upper respiratory symptoms?
  • Please bring masks for you and your child and wear them for the duration of your time in the center.
  • We ask that only one parent or guardian accompany each patient to their appointment. A home health nurse may also attend if necessary.
  • All visitors, patients and staff are screened at the center’s front door every day, via temperature checks and questions about recent exposure and health status.
  • Additional cleaning and other protocols have been enacted to ensure safety.

To help patients cope with the changes at the center, videos are available for your child to watch when you arrive, covering topics such as how to wear a mask, how your temperature will be checked and what to expect during your visit.

We recommend that you practice wearing a mask with your child before your visit. Here are some tips from a CHOC psychologist on how to help children who are afraid of wearing masks. If you have concerns about your child and masks, please speak to their physician.

Telehealth for autism appointments

In order to minimize the number of patients and families in the Thompson Autism Center at any one time, telehealth appointments are now available for certain types of visits, such as medication checks, initial assessment appointments and other appointments as necessary. To make these appointments most beneficial for you and your child, we offer these recommendations:

  • We recommend that you use a camera-equipped desktop or laptop computer, tablet or touchpad device rather than a smartphone. This allows our providers to have a full view of your child and observe how they behave in their environment, which is a key part of autism therapy.
  • Sit in a room that can be limited to just you and your child, free from noises, distractions and other people coming in and out.
  • During the telehealth visit, we will likely spend part of the appointment without your child present, just as we do during your in-person appointment. It will be important to have a caregiver or activity available to occupy your child, allowing you to concentrate on the visit and be able to freely speak without worry of upsetting your child if you need to talk about topics that may be irritating or bothersome to them.

We appreciate your patience as we navigate the fluid environment created by COVID-19. As we implement changes, we assure you that we remain dedicated to our mission to provide your child medical, psychological and behavioral treatment as well as support for your family.

This article was updated on June 23, 2020.

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