AIM director provides tips for creation of normalcy

Samantha Weber, Staff writer

The Director of the Autism Initiative at Mercyhurst (AIM), Brad McGarry, has contributed an article for the GoErie News relating to the pandemic and student life. McGarry’s article, titled “Creating Normalcy for Students on the Spectrum During a Pandemic” was featured in the newspaper’s opinion section.

In the article, McGarry provides tips to parents who have children who are on the spectrum during this unprecedented time, with the main focus being on how to reduce anxiety and navigate remote learning.

McGarry’s article is a summary of a discussion he had with Dr. Temple Grandin, perhaps the world’s leading advocate for autism communities. “I had recently had a discussion with a world-renowned individual in our field and felt that the information and content of that discussion worked well with the content that was asked for in the request,” McGarry said.

The article’s main points talk about how to create a pattern that will not change that much. McGarry and Grandin suggest keeping a steady routine such as committing to “make your bed every day, get dressed, eat your meals, enjoy leisure time and set schedules.” McGarry gave advice on how to set up a schedule for remote learning, and use this to ensure productivity. “Establish standard ‘work periods’ where students can exercise their minds and participate in academic endeavors,” McGarry said.

Consistency in daily routines is shown to help ease concern about the future and the unknown. In terms of the anxiety aspect, McGarry recommends that you “offer transitional warnings to help with predictability, even from one activity to another in the home.” “Understanding what comes next is a great way to ease anxiety and feel more in control of the environment around you,” McGarry said.

In terms of remote learning, creating a conducive learning environment in the home free from distractions and sensory input is very important for students on the spectrum and others alike. “Add structure to the day. When you develop routines throughout the day, it provides predictability and responsibility,” McGarry said.

The article makes an interesting point saying, “We have a unique opportunity to share with an entire generation what real family time looks like and what the world looked like before the World Wide Web and instant access to everything.” This idea urges parents to take a step back and evaluate what is important to be teaching their children.

The article strongly encourages “limiting screen time and gaming and build it into the reinforcement of following the daily schedule.”

When asked about why he wrote this article, McGarry said, “I was approached and asked if I could possibly share some information that could support local families and share how we were responding to the COVID pandemic.” He was able to talk to Grandin prior to this and they had a wonderful discussion.

“In the end, it all came together, and the editorial was the final product,” McGarry said.