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There’s hope for the pandemic easing, but parents of children with autism still face unique challenges. Employers must offer support.

Apr 01, 2021


There’s hope for the pandemic easing, but parents of children with autism still face unique challenges. Employers must offer support.

As employers begin to focus on reopening workplaces to greater in-person participation amid promising news about the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s important for managers and HR leaders to keep in mind that for families of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), this will be yet another transition in a year that has ripped routines to shreds.

“Employers need to be hyper-aware that this is a time when these families will actually need more support,” said Mike Civello, Senior Vice President of Rethink Benefits. “Many of us are so excited to transition back to anything that feels like ‘normal,’ but in many cases, there are complex family situations that will require additional support. A specialized helping hand during this significant home and life transition is critical for this group.”

Rethink Benefits provides support to employees who are caregivers of individuals with learning, social or behavioral challenges through 24/7 virtual consultations with behavioral experts and online, evidence-based training and support for these families.

While interventions and therapies that support children and adults with autism are essential, Rethink is unique in the proactive and actionable support provided to their parents and caregivers. 

“Supporting these parents and empowering them to drive outcomes is a really important part of the solution,” Civello said. “Rethink’s programs provide coaching and training so that parents can learn more effective communication and teaching strategies to elicit behavioral, academic and daily living improvements on a daily basis.”

Many families of children with ASD have been disconnected from school-provided special education services, speech and language therapy, physical and occupational therapy and other important interventions since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. In addition, constant changes to the rhythms of daily life—from when parents are working, to whether school is fully remote or hybrid—cause particular stress for these families.

In a survey published in January 2021 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 64 percent of caregivers reported that the changes brought by the pandemic “severely or moderately impacted” their child’s autism symptoms, behaviors or other challenges. Three-quarters of parents surveyed reported feeling extreme or moderate stress because of the disruptions to their lives.

“Life for these parents pre-Covid was just as stressful, just in a different environment,” Civello said. “It’s going to be really hard for these parents to contend with yet more changes.”

As employers increasingly seek cost-efficient ways to support their employees beyond the workplace, Rethink Benefits’ innovative cloud-based solution is bridging the gaps that many healthcare plans struggle to fill for families of children who are neurodiverse or have developmental disabilities, including ASD and AD/HD. 

This is especially relevant at a time when remote and hybrid learning, coupled with a reduction in children seeing pediatricians for well visits during the pandemic, have led to delayed diagnosis of autism. Autism Parenting Magazine published research late last year showing that  more than 128,000 children and their families are at risk of being un- or mis-diagnosed as a result of vital services being shut down during the pandemic.

Rethink’s services do not require a clinical diagnosis and are not age-restricted. Rethink’s virtual coaching and online training programs equip parents to work with their children and to more effectively address their child’s unique developmental and behavioral needs and extend to all family and care team members.

“Employers are going to have to take a really good look at permanent impacts to the workforce and how to adapt to them by leveraging technology,” Civello said. “The transition out of the pandemic is going to be slow for everyone, but for this group it will be even tougher.”

About Rethink Benefits

Rethink Benefits provides evidence-based training tools and 24/7 virtual consultations for caregivers and managers who support neurodiverse individuals. It is a division of Rethink First, a global health technology company providing cloud-based treatment tools, training and clinical support to schools, employers, behavioral health professionals and payers. Rethink serves thousands of clients globally, including more than 25 of the Fortune 100 and many of the country’s largest public school systems and health plans. Rethink’s SaaS solutions are powered by proprietary, clinically validated content and best practices overseen by a renowned Scientific Advisory Board and include more than 2,000 evidenced-based training modules, extensive Social and Emotional Learning content and ground-breaking neurodiversity and inclusion training and education tools. Rethink is owned by K1 Capital, one of the premier private equity firms focused on high-growth, enterprise software solutions.