This is a strange, turbulent time for everyone, however particularly strange if you are autistic. This blog is a handy guide and some recommendations to help support autistic individuals, whether you are a parent/carer/friend or family member.
State the facts
Only state clear objective facts about the virus. Don’t engage or let them hear speculation. They will struggle to separate ‘what if’s’ from what is really happening. Try to answer their questions without giving unnecessary details that may alarm them.
There are some brilliant articles online about the facts, including this one from the NHS. A lot of the newspapers and media outlets speculate which can often make it harder to understand or decide what to believe in.
Over the past week there has been a lot in the news about stockpiling, and many items are running out in the supermarkets. Due the nature of whats happening, if you know an autistic individual that only eats certain foods its probably good to think about buying a few extras to ensure everyone remains safe and healthy.
Similarly, if someone is worried about the prevalence of the virus ask if they need anything from the supermarket. Going to busy places to even do basic things like the supermarket shop can be very worrying, especially as they are getting extremely chaotic.
Offices and schools around the world are closing, creating large disruptions to every day life. This can be a big change for autistic people may be moving to a prolonged school holiday or even a working from home situation.
Now is a great time to be talking about routines, and how autistic individuals can keep their routine as normal as possible. You can support people to continuously set their alarms, have the same meal times and interact with the same people on a daily basis. For example, if there is an office closure you can encourage someone to have a short phone call with their manager every day to keep life as routine as possible.
Mental health matters
A lot of events, gyms, cinemas and shops are limiting their hours so its really important to keep yourself active and support everyones mental health and do things we enjoy!
If you or someone you know is usually a gym goer, try doing some home workouts on youtube. Not only will you be spending some time together, but also keeping yourself moving! Other good things to do are putting a good film on or trying some home cooking.
Let them try their own coping mechanisms
Autistic individuals are pretty good at finding ways to cope. Someone has piled pillows outside his door to ‘stop the virus’. Will it in anyway help? No. Does it make him feel safe? Yes. Within reason let individuals cope how they need to.
At the end of the day we are all human and have different ways of dealing with things. We all can do our bit to support others during this situation.
If you or someone else needs additional support:
Further advice can be found on the NHS website
The latest advice from the government can be found here
Mind has a fantastic resource regarding the virus, your health and well being.
The department of education have set up a helpline to answer any questions related to education:
Phone: 0800 046 8687
Opening hours: 8am to 6pm (Monday to Friday)
And finally, if you need someone to talk to confidentially, feel free to give us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to direct you to additional support if needs be.