Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Structure Supports Uncertainty


Wednesday 01 April 2020

The introduction of COVID-19 into our lives at the end of February brought with it uncertainty, disruption to routine and perhaps most difficultly, unpredictability. These are discomforts that many of us will find incredibly difficult to process, and that is with us being kept fully informed by the news and online sources. This has been a culture shock for us all.

In AsIAm, we often describe being autistic as ‘living in a world that was not built with you in mind’. Every day autistic people are expected to adapt their communication, interpretations and actions to fit into a confusing, abstract world. Structure, routine and predictability are absolutely essential to being able to navigate your way around it.

Many parents of children on the spectrum may be finding it difficult to know how to support their child at this time. All essence of routine and predictability has been removed without any indication of when life will return to ‘normal’. This lack of control is what breeds anxiety. Anxiety in young children can manifest itself in many ways; being upset, withdrawal, increased attachment, constant questioning or need for reassurance over basic things, or even communicating needs in a way that might be challenging for you as a parent. Here are some tips and strategies to help a child, autistic or not, to manage their anxious feelings during this time.


Create structure in the midst of uncertainty

It is really important that your child has some structure right now, as it is human nature to have a routine. You will know what level of structure your child requires and whether it needs to be supported visually, but having a timetable for the day or week can be massively helpful to the child who relies on it. This does not need to be a structure that emulates that of preschool or school, but giving designated times for different activities can help a child to feel less anxious and make the day pass quicker.

Some children may need more specific schedules and may need visuals rather than verbally communicated, but it is really important for children to have some element of structure to their new ‘normality’


Get dressed

Have breakfast

Arts and crafts


Go for a walk

Messy play


Read a book

TV time

Board games with family

Don’t try to redirect the feelings

As parents, it can be incredibly difficult to see your child worry or be upset and the immediate instinct is to shield them from it or make it go away. While this might seem to help in the immediate term, it does not help your child to regulate or understand their own feelings. Anxiety is normal. It is a normal feeling, that children must learn to feel just like every other emotion. It is important that you do not invalidate their worry at this time by saying things such as “you don’t need to worry about that”, or “don’t be silly it will be ok”. Instead, validate their feelings by acknowledging them – “I can see that you’re worried. Sometimes I get worried too and that’s ok.”


Don’t shield them from what is happening

Many news reports and advertisements on TV are quite scary right now, and it is understandable why parents may not wish their child to see or hear it. However, children are incredibly instinctive and are going to pick up on the changes they see and hear around them. It is much better to explain what is happening in a child friendly way, than responding with ‘it’s nothing’ when they do see the TV and ask what that’s about. This way, they will have a clear explanation with time to ask you questions, rather than filling in the gaps for themselves and becoming more anxious or afraid.


Acknowledge but re frame negative thoughts

The change of routine and restriction on every day activities may be difficult for your child, and there may be a huge amount of focus on the things they can no longer do. So if your child is to say “I miss seeing my friends in preschool” or “I wish we could go to the playground”, acknowledge this and say “yes, I know it is difficult not to be able to do those things”, but remind them of something they are able to do – “but isn’t it great that we get to stay at home and bake together” or “I’m really happy that I get to go for walks with you every day”.


Model positive ways to cope with anxiety

You have suddenly found yourself to be in the position of not only a parent, but a teacher ( and cook, cleaner, baker, dance instructor etc etc….) so more so now than ever, your child will be looking at how you respond to this change and how you manage it yourself. Instead of protecting how you are feeling from them, it will teach them so much more if you say “I feel a bit anxious today, let’s go out for a walk” and then when you return, expressing to them how much better you feel for doing that.


Manage expectations (be realistic!)

At this point, your child’s routine has been disrupted for 2-3 weeks. There are going to be many questions about ‘when will this be over’ or ‘when can I see my friends’. It can be very tempting to say it will be over very soon or that it won’t be long, but the reality is we do not know this. It is ok as a parent to not have all the answers. Try to answer questions like these by saying ‘I know it is annoying and you miss school/your friends/your teacher. You will see them again, but I don’t know how long it will take.’ This may not be the response they want from you, but it is the response they will need to help them manage the expectation.



Fiona Ferris – Deputy Chief Executive Officer at AsIAm

Fiona joined AsIAm in 2017 coming from a background of Early Years Management. She wished to contribute her own experiences of being autistic, and a parent to a child on the spectrum, to help others understand things from an autistic perspective. Fiona aims to give practical, relatable knowledge and strategies to assist others in supporting the autistic community to meet their own individual potential right through the life cycle.

0 comments Comments

Comments are closed.

educating(1) bonds(1) Exit interview(1) Online(1) play stories(2) ECCE(7) Mealtimes(1) Family(1) Child mental health(1) respect(5) ERASMUS+(3) Lego(2) worries(1) Party(1) Research Conference 2019(1) ECEC(3) COVID-19 crisis(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Graduation(1) child-centric(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Mathematicians(1) Snacks(1) refugees(1) Sustainable(1) keezy(1) Prexit(1) Vertical grouping(1) christmas(9) Performing(1) under 3's(3) Limerick(1) aistear blog(3) Pre-School Services(1) learners(1) UD(1) Infectious diseases(1) Inspections(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Engineering Ireland(1) pablo(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) listening(1) Reggio(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Covid pandemic(2) Academic Skills(1) apps for children(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Wendy Lee(3) Arts(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Interests(1) Awards 2019(1) Challenges(1) Educators(2) learning bias(1) Glitter(2) Appreciation(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Staff Motivation(1) Return to Work Training(1) Training(2) Youtube Series(1) Jenga(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) preschool settings(1) Childcare(3) The Lullaby Book(1) primary education(1) Eritrea(1) behavioural science(1) Opportunities(1) youdoodle(1) communication(4) risky play(2) Children and families(1) Thanks(1) Policy(2) Together Old and Young Programme(1) Sequins(1) Leargas(1) Body Language(1) Mayo(1) routine(2) dogs(1) Positivity(1) social media(1) Ceremony(1) play pod(1) children’s learning(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) curriculum(5) transitions(10) Interactions(2) social science(1) Queues(1) mushrooms(1) children development(1) coronavirus(1) Reading Time(1) Malaguzzi(1) Technology(3) Recycling(2) Teamwork(1) MECPI(1) Favouritism(1) Self Help Skills(1) blog(44) European Project(1) Impact(1) Online Research Symposium(1) interacting(2) CPD(1) Meet the Members(1) preschool(4) Inclusion(3) Supernanny(1) Traffic Lights(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Participation(2) science(3) development(8) Laugh(1) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) Exercise(1) School Age Childcare(1) play(35) Mindfulness(2) Sport(1) reading(5) education(2) Sculptures(1) maternity health(1) Horizon 2020(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Frustrations(1) Book Club(2) Photographs(1) parents(6) Wonder(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Early Childhood Ireland(6) Feeding(1) Loss(1) june29(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Communicating(1) Winter(1) trust(4) Autism(4) Early Years(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Family wall(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) emotional well-being(1) education system(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) GDPR(1) Mo Scéal(1) AsIAm(2) UNICEF report(1) Infection Control(1) dublin(2) annual conference(1) Light table(1) Magnavacchi(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Irish(1) scéalta(48) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Pobal(1) emotions(2) Magic(1) creche(1) ICBN(1) keep in touch(1) Maths Week(1) Orla Kenny(1) Building Resilience(1) reopening ireland(1) Rich Documentation(1) Covid response(1) Mantra(1) Confidence(1) Wrapping paper(1) Sleep(1) Love(3) reopening(1) Biting(1) Intention(1) Touch(1) overhear(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Motor neuron disease(1) code of ethics(1) animals(2) Identity and Belonging(4) World Health Organisation(1) responsive relationships(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Traditions(2) Shoes(1) EM Standing(1) Relaxation(1) INTO(1) Independence(1) UNCRC(2) Death(2) New Appointments(1) Celebrate(1) Builders(1) Engineering(3) Kids Own(1) Consent(1) Running(1) art of the relationship(1) Albert Einstein(1) Digital(1) Confident(1) movement behaviours(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Event Guide(1) Workforce(1) stories(3) Well-Being(10) Book Review(1) Shapes(2) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Titles(1) Grief(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Graduate(1) childcare services(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Wilenski(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) learning(19) College(1) ELC(1) Support(1) experience(1) Siolta blog(8) Research and Professional Learning(1) Loving Relationships(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) Seas Suas(1) MA(1) Children's Research Network(1) Fabric(1) Masterclass(2) early years research(2) Early Years Educators(3) Human Resources(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Counting(1) play pods(2) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Funding(1) Study Trip(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Story(2) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) grandchild(1) Identity(5) First 5(1) Self-Esteem(1) Santa(2) planning(1) Through the looking glass(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Playdough(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Thinking(1) curiosity(3) Trick or treat(1) Pedagogy(2) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) science week(2) Music(3) environments(1) ReCreate(2) Deirdre Rogers(1) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Arlene Forster(1) dining experiences(1) Arithmetic(1) Playschool(1) Adoption(1) Certificate(1) Children's Voice(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) DCYA(6) ECEC Setting(2) Yoga(1) Leadership(1) linc(1) Art(6) Communications(1) Anxiety(2) Dance(1) conference(1) baby room(1) Recycle(1) Iceland(1) Plants(1) Administrative Burden(1) Little Buddies(1) story time(2) National Awards 2019(1) friendships(1) family time(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Performance Management(1) Interaction(1) Universal Design(2) healthy eating policies(1) Buddies(1) Leprechauns(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) Plastic(1) Flowers(1) Síolta(129) Decisions(1) bloom app(1) Syria(1) Creativity(5) Visual Impairment(1) Research Seminar(1) National Awards 2018(2) value(1) Kilkenny(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Giraffe(2) Reggio Emilia(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Wesco(1) Kerry(1) The Jelly King(1) Cork(1) phone apps(1) Sweets(1) educarer(1) Environment(2) Irish guidelines(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Learning Stories(9) Settling in(4) Awards Night(1) TRAP(1) Belonging(3) Map(1) Care-giving routines(1) early childhood(1) Mount Everest(1) Competent(1) structure(1) Reopening Childcare(1) supportive environments(2) Large Doll Play(1) Awards(2) community(5) Degree(1) Covid19 crisis(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Anthony Semann(1) Bereavement(2) learning hub(1) books(4) Your place(1) outdoor environment(1) GoToMeeting app(1) Names(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Síolta QAP(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Cognitive development(1) babies(7) gender stereotype(1) Montessori(3) Storytelling(7) Health(2) Buddy Bench(1) Summer(1) IGL(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Maynooth University(2) COVID-19 landscape(1) memories(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Magda Gerber(1) Proceedings Journal(1) Learning through Storytelling(1) Scents(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Brain(1) Investment(2) Treasure Chest(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Maths(6) Quality(4) outdoors(4) Smiles(1) Trade union(1) outdoor play(6) Decision Making(1) Diversity(1) Potential(1) Weather(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) risk assessment(1) Stress(2) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Elders(1) Equality(1) Affordability(1) Small World Play(1) Halloween(2) Budget 2018(1) Sessional service(1) Change(1) Childhood(1) TOY Programme(1) outdoor space(3) United Nations(1) CIT(1) role playing(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Creative(1) Employee(1) racism(1) show and tell(1) Japan(1) Our Little Seed(1) conversations(1) risk(2) Self-regulation(1) Ariana Pucci(1) peer group(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) play therapy(1) AIM(2) Maynooth(1) Digital Devices(1) Obesity(1) Child Care(1) Mixed age groups(3) Snakes(1) child-centred approach(1) iOS(1) Document Learning(1) Norway(2) Frosty the Snowman(1) listen(1) staying connected(1) Primary School(2) Mark Twain(1) Budget 2020(1) Capable(1) lockdown(1) E.coli(1) feisty(1) Drawing(2) Aistear(125) Nuturing interactions(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Penguins(1) Spiders(1) imotion(1) Pretend Play(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) food(1) PIP(1) Rituals(1) man up(1) Exploratory Play(1) UN(1) Mud kitchens(1) Trade Unions(1) Sustainability(3) Leaders in Practice(1) Trigonometry(1) Patterns(1) Pobal sector profile(1) Learning Journal(2) Time(1) meals(3) Gratitude(1) Whole Group(1) Line-ups(1) Children's Rights(3) University(1) Italy(1) Learning Story(1) Mental Health(4) HR(1) early childhood educator(2) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Role play(1) CCTV(1) National Research Conference 2019(1) relationships(17) Social Skills(1) Nonverbal(1) journey(1) Fee Play(1) Snack Time(1) Iraq(1) Margy Whalley(1) Care routines(1) Culture(2) Routines(2) pets(1) mental health problems(1) Laughter(1) eating(1) Socioemotional development(1) Early Years Education(1) Professionalisation(5) Community involvement(1) Behaviour(3) Reflective Practice(1) Painting(1) Workplace well-being(1) dining(1) Home Corner(1) online training(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Time Out(1) Celebrations(4) Design(1) SAC(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Learning Story Awards(2) Learning journals(1) Valentine's Day(3) purpose(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) early life(1) Pen green(1) Window(1) Engagement(1) Oireachtas(1) awards 2020(1) Treasure(1) Inter-generational(2) COVID-19(11) San Miniato(4) Engineers Week(2) Fantasy play(1) documentation(4) life long learning(1) emotional environment(2) Breathing(2) budget(1) Inspirational(2) Empathy(1) Craft(1) RIE philosphy(1) National Holiday(1) gender bias(1) Seanchaí(1) Maternity Leave(1) Gardening(1) Twitter(1) NCCA(3) collaboration(1) Easter(1) Facebook(1) Maria Montessori(1) Awards 2018(3) Growing up Outdoors(1) Blocks(1) SPICE Framework(1) developing motor skills(1) EECERA 2016(1) Workplace Relations(3) Budget 2019(2) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) Afghanistan(1) Vietnam(1) Thank you(1) RTE Investigates(1) STEM(3) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Meal time(1) Children(4) Qualifications(1) Nutrition(1) Upcycling(1) Imagination(3) First 5 strategy(1) Exclusion(1) Visitors(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) toddlers(3) Advocacy(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) early years learning(1) DES Inspection(1) research submissions(1) ears(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Games(1) continual professional development(1) Xbox(1) Scéalta Blog(101) Jillian van Turnhout(1) research(6) NAEYC(1) Hand Hygiene(2) Exploring(1) Academics(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine