If you are someone who has autism or know someone who is struggling to cope, the sudden change in structure to daily life is less than ideal. Experiences will vary in each individual, but changes in routine can cause an autistic person to feel high levels of stress and anxiety.
Here are a collection of tips shared by experts, carers and people with autism on how they are adapting to the lockdown.
“Challenges could be more pronounced”
Adele O’Halan, a child and adolescent psychotherapist and spokesperson for ACP (Association of Child Psychotherapists) said:
“The autistic spectrum is vast and people on the spectrum will have very different challenges dependent on their own strengths, their needs, their support network and on their environment. This of course is also relevant in wider society but could be more pronounced for people on the autistic spectrum.”
Throughout this period of uncertainty, many people have been reaching out to help one another through online platforms.
One tip that has been circulating online is to communicate feelings with people, whether that is someone you are isolating with, or with people in a similar situation to you, on an online forum.
Terri-Anne has high functioning autism and is currently in isolation in a house share. She said:
“I’ve been speaking with a lot of people who understand me, as well as my other friends who have other neurological conditions. We all seem to be in the same boat, navigating all of this has been really difficult.”
It is also important to recognise when a situation is getting overwhelming for someone with autism.
“I have good days and bad days. It can get quite overwhelming being in lockdown, especially in a house share. It becomes a lot because everyone wants to do things together all the time, which I totally get, but it can be a bit much sometimes and I need to shut myself away from burning out… I do recognise a sensory overload before I get one though, which means I can hide myself in a dark room…”
Limit social media and the news
Hearing about the coronavirus in the news every day can become extremely overwhelming and can cause someone with autism to have a meltdown. Making sure you limit the news you consume can really help.
“I have muted the words ‘coronavirus’ and ‘COVID-19’ on social media, and I monitor what I want to see and when on the news. It really stops me from feeling overwhelmed.”
Keep homeschooling and other routines around same times
Many parents are home schooling children due to the lockdown and as a result are having to create new established routines for their children with autism.
A parent of Thomas, who has autism, Sarah Hellard said:
“I have been making sure we keep home schooling times around the same time and have regular breaks for free time too. Listen to what they want to do, understandably some suggestions may not be feasible, but make individual-led activities such as baking, crafts and playing games outdoors, but vary it up.”
Each individual is different, so they will react to the current situation in different ways.
“I expect meltdowns because we’re all overwhelmed and stressed, so it is inevitable that they will be too…talk it through it with them and discuss feelings and thoughts.”
Psychotherapist Adele O’Halan offers more expert tips on the challenges people with autism may face and how these challenges can be solved
You can find more tips and other resources on the ACP website.