Mom and her special needs child adjust to pandemic life

Like many of us, Ebony Holt is working from home. She's been doing so for months. But she has a new co-worker in her home office. He son Jaylon.

"Jaylon is 18. He loves 90s TV shows and music. He loves lounging in pajamas, trampolines, loves to swim," Holt says.

And, these days, Ebony and Jaylon Holt are spending a lot of time together.

"He had to move into my home office with me because he's not only my student, but he's my coworker now. I have to watch what he's doing,"  Holts says.

Months of sheltering in place have left the Holts cut off from a lot of the support they had.

"We went from having 4 days of ABA therapy, we had after school exercises. We were involved in a lot. But, when it started, and everything stopped, being a fulltime single mom, I became all of that," Holt

It's a story Cheryl Rhodes, Director of the Family Support and Care Coordination Team at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's Marcus Autism Center is hearing a lot lately.

"Everybody is at home on top of one another," Rhodes says. "And so we're having to learn how to negotiate personal boundaries, space, competing needs that we all have."

On the one hand, teaching Jaylon is easy. He's very willing to learn, he wants to learn, he's excited about it.

But, he needs a lot of structure and likes to know exactly what to expect. So, she's improvised and created a new shelter-in-place schedule.

If he doesn't have one, it's just all over the place. It's all over the place for him, it's all over the place for me," Holt explains.

Rhodes says predictability is key.

"For a parent who has a child with autism, the changes that we've all had to make are particularly significant," Rhodes says. " Because children who are on the spectrum do respond very, very well to predictability and stability. And that comes from routines and set schedules."

Jaylon has been able to connect with this therapist at Marcus, through virtual sessions, two or three times a week. And, he has a tight group of friends on the spectrum, connecting virtually, too.

So, last week they made pizza. This week, Jaylon is going to host taco night. So, they'll get on Zoom and they'll show the ingredients and they'll cook the stuff," Holts said.

They're making it work, one day at a time.