Online toolkit helps people with autism during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:18 PM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 23:03:44-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging, especially for families with loved ones on the autism spectrum. News 3 spoke with developers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who developed a new, free online toolkit that's helping families in Hampton Roads and around the world.

For Lee and Wendy Talley, their son, Harry, has autism. They told News 3 the pandemic has been tough on them while staying home in Portsmouth.

"It's a routine killer," Lee Talley said.

"He's [Harry] had some behaviors," Wendy Talley added. "He's gotten upset and thrown some things, and cried [and] doesn't understand when we say we can't go somewhere."

Lately, the Talleys are getting help from the toolkit.

"You actually have a physical picture, and he [Harry] can relate to that," Wendy said.

Dr. Kara Hume led a team of more than a dozen developers, creating a toolkit with resources including ways of explaining COVID-19, coping and calming strategies, visual supports for hygiene and visual cues for things like exercise.

"We don't want anyone to feel like they are struggling through this alone," Hume said. "As families are trying to navigate teaching at home and families working, they may need a visual schedule or a schedule that helps the individual know when am I supposed to do what."

The kit has also helped Linda Varblow and her son, Joey.

"Since we're home now, he's taking on some added responsibilities, and one of them is cleaning his own bathroom," Varblow said. "It had all of the different steps, and then it said what he was supposed to do next, which was to start his laundry."

Hume said as of Monday, the toolkit has had 101,000 downloads and has been translated into 10 different languages since launching on March 26.

For more information about the toolkit, click here.

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