Why do they call it the "novel" coronavirus? It’s a long story…

One of our great hopes for 2022 was to enter the new year with COVID-19 as a side note on its way out.  Instead, we enter 2022 with record high cases and a new surge.  COVID-19 remains a headline and continues to affect our daily lives.  Over the last two years, we have learned a lot about how to serve individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders in an ever-changing world controlled by an intractable virus.  This scenario sounds better as a blockbuster film than reality, but it is our new reality.  Offering true “day services without walls” we have faced many challenges that may be different from what others have faced, but we refuse to give up on community inclusion and all of its benefits for both those with and without disabilities.  We have found two main challenges over the last two years. First, the unpredictability of closures.  Second, changing social expectations.  This has not stopped us, but it has made it more challenging.   One of the most effective coping strategies has been custom stories describing why venues have suddenly closed, then opened, then closed again and why masks and distancing are sometimes now a part of social expectations.  While some individuals will require custom stories in a format that is familiar to them, others will benefit from pre-made Social Stories™ that can be gleaned from the internet.  A few good sources are https://www.covid19.autism-society.org/, https://www.mcbdds.org/765/Social-Stories-Helping-People-Understand and https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/humandevelopment/COVID-19-Materials-for-People-with-IDD.html .  If you can’t find exactly what you need or you work with someone who would benefit more from pictures of themselves or people and places they know in their story, you can always make your own with candid photos.  Any scrapbook or story making computer or phone app can be used to make a custom story.  A few we have used are https://www.storyjumper.com/ , https://apps.apple.com/us/app/little-story-creator-digital-scrapbooking-and-photo/id721782955 and https://apps.apple.com/us/app/social-story-creator-library/id588180598 .  We are not affiliated with any of the apps or sites mentioned and get no financial gain from their use, but they offer some good examples that may help in the quest to make this easier for individuals with disabilities.  It is important to be able to express why this is happening and the emotions that we are all feeling because of it.  Frustration is an emotion that is often calmed when we realize a situation is not unique to us.  Simply sharing your own frustration and coping strategies in a way that individuals with disabilities can understand may help calm their frustration.  These stories offer a way to share what you have done to cope, activities you still enjoy (ie eating dinner) and the things you like about changes you can’t control (ie more time with family).