Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health and Safety Guide
ASERT has put together some resources for those with autism and those who care for people with autism relating to the current Coronavirus outbreak.
How I See It is a series on PAAutism and ASDNext. In each installment, we ask people in the Pennsylvania autism community – individuals, family members, professionals and more – to share their thoughts on a particular topic. You can see previous installments here.
This month’s topic is coronavirus – specifically, ways that they are dealing with social distancing, anxiety, isolation and staying healthy. That’s what these writers will discuss.
Out of Sync Woman says:
“It’s the middle of the night and all my anxiety of the day plus a few new ones are making it hard to sleep. The “what ifs“ and “what next” are causing me to search over and over for new information on new sites. I feel stuck and since it’s the middle of the night, I really can’t talk to anyone. I need to use positive self-talk right now. I’m telling myself I did the best I could today and that’s okay. I try not focus on what I need to do or haven’t done by making a list of tasks to do and “what’s bothering me” list so I can try to let go and stop thinking about it. I try to accept there are things I don’t know and can’t control in my life. I take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in uncertainty and that lots of people are working on finding answers. I really need to go to sleep so I can be ready for tomorrow.”
Out of Sync Woman says:
“I’m trying to do my very best to limit the amount of news I’m exposing myself either through the radio, internet or television. I’m trying to update myself only twice a day, once in the morning and once at night. It’s hard for some reason; I feel like if I don’t keep watching or listening obsessively I will miss something important about the coronavirus and its impact. However, I found that watching too much news is not good for my mental health in that it was causing me to panic. I already struggle with anxiety and I don’t need to do that to myself. I’m now telling myself if i check the news twice a day, it will have any important information I need included in the content.”
“I do find it funny how I never seem to get off the topic of whether I don’t mind staying in by myself or trying to go out and do stuff; mentality can change. Sometimes I even have a self-reflection while I am doing more social gatherings. With the recent outbreak involving COVID-19, I feel as though I have yet to keep those same exact goals as I try to at least use social media as a positive outlet…, and weirdly enough, it’s actually working.”
“Over the past few weeks, the news has been anxiety-provoking, full of uncertainty and changes. Businesses are closed, travel plans canceled. Many of our routines have been disrupted, along with the activities we enjoy doing. During all of this, school has now moved online for the foreseeable future. Depending on your situation, this could be a bright spot. There are various pros and cons to virtual learning.”
“Today I’d like to talk with you all about a topic very important to my own mental health care routine and generally very helpful tool in times of stress: vent art. For those of you who have never heard of the term, that’s okay. The definition of vent art is simple: art that is made to let out a feeling.”
Out of Sync Woman writes:
“With living on my own, it’s easy to get lost in my own world. Especially these days when we’re encouraged to self-isolate and to use social distancing. I sometimes struggle to connect with other people. I struggle to remember to reach out to others so I write down “call” or “text” on my calendar or to-do list.”
At least two more weeks of school closures, but, chances are two weeks is a pipe dream. Two more weeks sounds like an interminable amount of time. I fully understand and support social distancing to slow down the spread of Coronavirus cases and recognize that it is impacting EVERYONE, but, for my 18 year old son with autism who struggles with any kind of disruption in routine, the impact has hit him hard.
Don’t get me wrong, he is not minding all the extra screen time, because on any given weekend or weeknight you will find my son happily social distancing himself in his bedroom with Mario and Luigi, Minecraft zombies and the latest YouTubers, but, losing the much needed routine and structure of the school day takes a toll. I know, what you are thinking, well, if the kid needs routine, establish a new routine at home. Ah, but, there it is again, that word “new”. If we add a new routine at home that was not the routine we had at home before, it feels like more disruption and it makes him even more uncomfortable. And here we are.
In addition to all these disruptions, my son is a senior this year and like all the high school (and college) seniors, my son is losing the opportunity for many of his “lasts”. His last trip to NYC with his musical friends, his last spring concert, his first and last honors recital, and what is hurting him the most, his last high school musical. He is certainly no different than any other senior in this country right now, but, what is different is how my son will process these losses.
There will be outright indignation and a little denial that someone changed the schedule or the rules (that disruption in routine again). There will be some understanding of the importance of these cancellations, but, my son will have a tougher time than most neurotypical students to see the big picture of the necessity for all of these missed opportunities that he won’t get back. And finally, there will be more isolation. The only opportunity for socialization for my son is at school. He does not socialize with friends outside of school. He will not be joining friends on zoom meetings, Facetime calls or virtual hangouts of any kind and this will not only be detrimental to him it is detrimental to his mother who worries so much about this isolation.
I know we are all in this together, but, for our loved ones with autism, who may be used to social distancing, this type of isolation is different, so it presents a new sets of challenges. We need to practice more patience, more understanding and more kindness. Isn’t that really what we all need right now?
This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.