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Currently, there are many protests happening in our country. Protests can invoke many different emotions both from the protester as well as the outside observer.  These protests are being broadcasts on many types of media so it might be necessary to help an individual with ASD to understand the reason for the protests and/or the police responses to these protests.

Sometimes people become over-focused on watching these events play out on the media and the topics become a focus of conversation.  It is helpful to help individuals with ASD balance his/her exposure to the media as well as learning when and with whom to discuss these current events.


Define a protest:  Protests can be done with a few or many people coming together to send a message to government officials or other leaders that rules and actions should be made to better their community.

Everyone has the right to protest peacefully. Understanding the difference between lawful and unlawful protesting is important for safety.

  • Lawful protesting includes holding signs, talking with others, and staying out of the road (unless the protests organizer has gained permission to march in the road – this frequently involves a police escort).
  • Unlawful protesting includes breaking the law, destruction of property and lighting fires.

In these current times, physically going to a protest is complicated by the COVID-19. The decision to participate in protests should be discussed with respect to the possibility of exposure of COVID-19 and protecting family members and household members.  Develop a plan for safe participation.  Explore ways to share the importance of safety and wearing protective equipment.

Because the current unrest and protest is so prominent in our media, it can become a focus of conversation for many.  Some individuals with ASD have difficulty knowing when and with whom to discuss some topics.  Clarify when and where it is acceptable to discuss these current events.  It might be helpful to create a chart to highlight the “safe” locations and people.  Sometimes a “non-safe”  person might even be a relative or close friend with strongly differing viewpoints that could cause stress and anxiety.

If there is a plan to go to a demonstration:

    • Prepare the individual for what they may experience: including large and noisy crowds as well as people with differing opinions.  Remember that understanding another’s perspective may be hard for the individual.
    • It might help to watch some protests on you-tube where you can point out some important concepts of protesting.
    • Develop an agreed upon exit plan
    • Establish a curfew or agreed upon time for the individual with autism to be home, encouraging daytime participation.
    • Be aware of locally enforced curfews and keep the person with ASD informed.
    • Remind individuals about current regulations due to COVID: wearing a mask and social distancing

Helpful Hints

  • Consider helping the individual explore alternative way(s) to get involved with publicly organized demonstrations.
  • Set limits on media consumption and steer towards reputable sources. Consider watching or listening to the media together to help process the information.
  • Ask about the individual’s perspective: this helps to learn what they know and uncovers where there may be confusion.
  • Use facts: steer away from words like right/wrong and appropriate/inappropriate. Use concrete terms such as lawful/unlawful.

Downloadable stories with visuals:

In times of uncertainty, everyone benefits from predictability!