The Pandemic and Neurodiverse Students

  • Increasing opportunities throughout the day for all family members/classmates to practice the verbal expression of feelings. Scheduled, semi-structured times at home and in the classroom can include a review of the day’s schedule and expectations, can help students practice the verbal expression of feelings, and can help students learn to articulate the types of support that they might need that day.
  • Creating multiple opportunities for non-verbal self-expression. These might include writing activities, such as a family or classroom daily newsletter, or individual journaling or scrapbooking. Tapping into students’ technical interests and skills can also be useful — students can be encouraged to create movies or develop music play lists with songs that represent a full range of human emotions.
  • Supplying materials that support therapeutic play and self-expression through the visual arts and movement (e.g., dance, yoga, exercise), contexts in which children may feel safe enough to explore difficult and unpleasant experiences.
  • Rocking (in a chair or otherwise)
  • Deep breathing
  • Listening to music or soothing sounds (with or without headphones)
  • Engaging in short periods of robust activity (jumping, spinning, running, etc.)
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Watching a preferred movie/TV show/video clip
  • Spending time with a favorite toy, or object
  • Snuggling with a pet (real or stuffed)
  • Deep pressure or massage, or the use of weighted blankets and/or “safe” spaces
  • Sensory play (fidgets, etc.)
  • Sleep/wake times and routines
  • Hygiene routines
  • Household chore routines
  • Mealtimes and related routines
  • Entertainment and leisure routines
  • Screen time use and transitions (not including screen time used for remote education, telehealth, or socialization). Although transitioning from technological devices can be difficult for all students, ND students are particularly vulnerable to dysregulation during times of transition. To maximize the possibility of smooth transitions, establish clear boundaries and rules related to screen time and use. Define what screen time means to the student, the amount and schedule for screen time allotted each day, whether screen time is earned and if so, how is it earned, and what the expectation is for transitioning from screen time.
  • Use verbal and visual “countdown” methods. Prior to starting screen time, and when nearing the end of screen time, remind the student of the next activity. The activity following screen time should never be an undesirable activity. Use a visual timer to emphasize a concrete limit, and offer ongoing verbal reminders of how much time the student has left, e.g., 10 minutes left, 5 minutes left, etc.
  • Create and review each morning the daily schedule. Structuring the student’s day ahead of time is a highly effective way to help reduce anxiety associated with ambiguity. Include the student in the planning process as much as possible, e.g., “would you like to do math during morning academics or after lunch”, “do you want to watch YouTube videos before or after you do your chores for the day?”
  • Create a workspace at home for the student that is as uncluttered and distraction-free as possible. Help the student create a “to-do” list that can be checked off when each item is completed.
  • Schedule daily opportunities for social connectedness. Help students create a list of family members, peers, professionals, etc. with whom they can “meet” either in person or via video formats such as Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime. Telephone calls and texting are other possible avenues for connecting.
  • If a given student and his/her caregivers cannot generate a list of individuals to connect with, school professionals might consider connecting students with similar social needs within the district, and/or formalizing regular contact with trusted adults at school, or at other community organizations (e.g., a church or other religious organization).
  • Changes in eating or sleep patterns; nightmares
  • Excessive worry or ruminations
  • Increased agitation or irritability
  • Increased clinginess or withdrawal
  • Skill regression
  • Increases in typical ND behavior patterns such as meltdowns, tantrums, perseverative or stimming behavior



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Effective School Solutions

Effective School Solutions


Reinventing K-12 Mental Health Care. Effective School Solution partners with school districts to help develop K-12 whole-school mental health programs.