Coping with autistics during a pandemic
These past few weeks have been difficult for everyone. Our routines have been completely disrupted, and, for some, the possibility of earning a living is available only to those few essential workers, and those who can work online. Many autistics typicaly experience anxiety as their default state, and they rely on routines. When those routines are disrupted, their psychological scaffolding begins to crumble, and so do they. For those who cannot express themselves in "typical" ways, the anxiety increases by magnitudes of a thousand.
The autistic may listen to the same news that we listen to, and attach their own meanings to what they hear. Many autistics see themselves as "empaths" (someone with a heightened ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual), and may be unable to determine how THEY should respond to a situation.
It is important that caregivers keep the autistic's daily routine as stable as possible, and alert the person when a change is going to occur ("we will not be going for a walk today because it is going to rain"), to avoid meltdowns. Try to avoid venting your own frustrations in their presence. It is also important that exposure to the news be limited to no more than 15-30 minutes once a day. In an earlier blog, I listed some diversions that can be used to keep the individual occupied. Always assume that your individual understands everything he or she hears, and keep the material age-level.
My friend Yasmin is feeling the pandemic acutely. She loves her family and friends, and (like many others) is frustrated by the inability to connect with them beyond emails. She expresses herself so eloquently with the following:
SEPARATION-by Yasmin Arshad (written to my real friends during the covid19 crisis). However distant, however far Loved ones, is my real image in your heart? The virus keeps us apart Have you forgotten me? You hope. You fear. But do you also remember? I think of how often We laughed in the sun, Only our smiles betraying great love. Will you still smile when we take off our masks?
Lisa here. Stay safe, everyone, and I'll see you on the other side of all this.