USAID Helps Children with Disabilities Cope with COVID-19 Behavior Change with Fun, Visual Campaign

Speeches Shim

Sunday, December 6, 2020
A graphic promoting messages on COVID-19 prevention.
USAID/PATH Healthy Markets project

Everyone has felt the effects of COVID-19, even without contracting the virus. With business and school closures, social distancing, and mask requirements, all members of society have had to make significant behavior changes. For children with autism or other developmental difficulties, adjustments such as wearing a mask and more frequent hand washing can be particularly frustrating.  Additional challenges, including lockdowns, adaptations to regular school and social gatherings, and worries about illness and health care have also strained mental health of both parents and children.  In response, USAID/PATH Healthy Markets, and A365, an organization to provide support and resources for children with developmental disabilities, collaborated to develop and launch an awareness campaign to help children and their parents cope with required behavior changes because of COVID-19.

The social media campaign ran from August through September 2020 and featured COVID-19 prevention messages and tools for families with autistic children and other developmental challenges. Using the theme “Corona Fighters,” depicting parents and children as superheroes fighting the virus, the campaign aimed to connect with children and help them deal with changes and challenges in a fun and playful way. The messages and visual aids shared on social media include printable, visual, step-by-step instructions for parents to teach their child to wash hands and wear a mask, how to talk to their child about COVID-19, and strategies for both children with autism and their parents on self-care and mental health, such as creating new routines, sleeping well, exercising and maintaining positive energy. 

A graphic promoting hand washing
A graphic promoting hand washing
USAID/PATH Healthy Markets project

To supplement the messages, calendars and toy balls with the Corona Fighters graphics promoting good hygiene to prevent COVID-19 were distributed to over 200 families of children with autism and other developmental disabilities in Hue and Quang Nam provinces.

The campaign reached over 70 thousand followers through A365’s Facebook page, and over a two-month period 11 posts were launched, generating over one million impressions and over 23,000 engagements.  Feedback to USAID and its partners has been overwhelmingly positive and appreciative of the support and ideas on how to cope with the changes and pressures of COVID-19.

To further support parents, caregivers and therapists of children with autism, USAID and PATH developed a training session delivered over Zoom to an audience of nearly 90 participants.

A graphic promoting social distancing
A graphic promoting social distancing.
USAID/PATH Healthy Markets project

The training spanned over two days and included Q&A sessions, as well as discussions on the importance of managing mental health during lockdown, using images and drawings to communicate emotions, how to manage depression and anxiety, how to organize physical activities for children with autism at home, and how to teach COVID-19  prevention measures. COVID-19 pressures and changes, such as altered routines and social distancing, have led many children with autism to display challenging behaviors and some regression, furthering parent’s anxiety.  Due to the need, the training generated a high level of interest in parents and caregivers and was extremely well-received, with participants reporting a 99% satisfaction rate. Many shared their experiences implementing what they learned; “I have been more patient and more understanding when my child becomes emotional. Last night when we were in the elevator, he suddenly burst into tears. Instead of telling him “stop crying” like before, I said “I understand you’re tired” then gave him a hug. He immediately stopped crying. It was amazing.” Ms. Trang Tong, the Policy Team Coordinator of Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped, said she was so pleased with the training materials that she is circulating them to their provincial officials to share with healthcare and social workers as well as people with disabilities.  

Six instructional videos were also screened, focusing on teaching children to wear a mask and wash hands, physical activities for children with autism, and a specialist discussion about mental health care and guidance on understanding children’s stress and its causes during COVID-19. These videos will also be shared on A365’s Facebook page as an extension to the social media campaign.

By providing tools, resources and guidance, USAID and its partners consistently empower and support community members and beneficiaries to overcome challenges and further their journey to self-reliance.

A graphic on self-care and mental health.
A graphic on self-care and mental health.
USAID/PATH Healthy Markets project

Last updated: December 11, 2020

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