A letter to families with updates about the Center and COVID-19 resources from Director, Dr. Geraldine Dawson

April 03, 2020
Healthy family working from home together

April 3, 2020

Dear families,

In the past few weeks, our world has changed drastically, and we know many of you are adapting to new circumstances. We have heard from many families and individuals on the autism spectrum about their difficulties in accessing needed services and the impact of this major change in routine and supports.  At the end of this message, we will provide links to a number of resources that you might find helpful.  We have been posting these regularly on the Duke Center for Autism Facebook page, so be sure to sign up if you haven’t already done so.

We wanted to provide an update about the temporary changes at the Duke Center for Autism in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  For the large majority of our research studies, all in-person clinical research assessments have temporarily paused for the safety of our participants as well as staff, and in order to comply with Duke policies and North Carolina’s stay-at-home order. Many of our study measures, such as online questionnaires and phone interviews, are continuing.  We have even adapted one of our early intervention studies to a telehealth platform.  We want to thank all of the families who are currently enrolled in our studies for your patience and flexibility as we set up these new procedures.  Similarly, the Duke Autism Clinic has transitioned to providing clinical services via telehealth, with very limited in-person visits in urgent circumstances. We are closely monitoring the latest guidance and policies to guide our decisions and will provide an update once normal research and clinical activities resume.  One small silver lining is that we are learning a lot about how to conduct research and provide clinical services using telehealth.  After the current situation abates, we hope to incorporate many of the new methods we have learned into our regular activities, which will allow us to better meet the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder and their families who live in remote areas.

Some of our studies will continue to recruit and enroll remotely while the restrictions on in-person activities are in place. Please contact autismresearch@duke.edu to ask our recruitment coordinator how you may stay connected with us or participate.

I want to thank each and every one of you for your continuing support and partnership through participation in our registry and research studies, and I invite you to continue to engage with us through social media and electronic communication. Below you will find some resources that we hope you may find helpful. These are also posted on our website under Resources.

I wish you all good health and hope during this challenging time. We look forward to continuing to stay in contact. We are in this together.

Warm regards,

Dr. Geraldine Dawson



Resources for persons with autism and their families:

Dealing with COVID-19 Resources with Visual Supports for Special Educators, Therapists, and Families of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities 

Coronavirus Social Story (via Easter Seals)

How to talk to your child with ASD about frightening situations

Don't Share Your Germs: Social Story About Staying Healthy

Good Steps to Washing Your Hands-visual support

Everyone Gets Sick Sometimes: Flu Teaching Story

What Should the Autism Community Know about COVID-19 (via Autism Speaks)

Autism Society of America COVID-19 tool kit

ASA Mental Health Resources with tips related to isolation and anxiety

ASA National Hotline

National Council on Severe Autism Resources for Families

Autism Society of NC COVID-19 Resources

Online ESDM parent-coaching program for parents of young children with ASD

The list is also posted on our website at this link: