The aim of my blog is to support people on the autistic spectrum to adapt to living in quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic and to share my experiences and to give some pointers. This blog is by an autistic writer, for autistic individuals.
My mum had been sent home from her place of work because she started coughing continuously. She was advised by the doctor over the telephone to self isolate.
A day later I started to feel muscle pains. My anxiety which is always under the surface, kicked in, and I decided to isolate at home too.
My daily News viewing had increased dramatically. I would watch the headlines every hour to catch constant updates about the coronavirus which wasn’t helping my situation, it was just making me more paranoid and anxious. It was also making me going onto the internet and self diagnose.
Lack of routine and household tension:
Being in isolation has not been easy for me to adjust to. I am not working at the moment because my workplace has temporarily closed due to the lockdown.
My regular meals of brown rice, brown pasta, canned tuna, and chicken that I eat daily are not in the house so a lot of familiarity has been lost.
This has also led to a lot of problems in my home. My mum does not understand autism, is in denial about me being on the spectrum, and doesn’t understand how a change of routine can affect people on the spectrum. It’s caused a lot of friction.
My already difficult social interactions with people was made worse. After I came out of self Isolation I needed to go to the shop to buy some food for the house.
Whenever I encountered a person on my journey I would cross to the other side of the road. If I saw somebody approaching me, frightened they would cough at me, I would run away.
Once inside the shop I would not walk down the aisle until I requested a staff member to move out of it so I could pick up my food. It was even worse at the checkout when I kept looking at the lady serving me with an anxious expression on my face. It was my over anxiety and the fear of someone coughing in my direction.
How you can adapt and clear your mind:
The first thing that I started to do was exercise at home. I have an exercise bike in my room so I did that for 45 mins every day when I woke up in the morning.
One thing that you can do to adapt is to go for a daily walk. If you have anxieties when you are out then try going for a walk around the block a few times. Alternatively, try following some workout routines online.
Less over analysing:
If you are worried about encountering every day people whilst out make sure you keep to the 2 metre rule. Alternatively you can wear a face mask while out. It’s reassuring and keeps you at ease.
In times of quarantine it’s best to keep busy so I thought I’d work on my genealogy and my family tree. But you can do other things that you find of interest to you, such as puzzles, reading your favourite books or comics.
Turn off the news:
Instead of watching the news I watched some of my favourite sci-fi films. So you can try turning on Netflix and catching up with your favourite shows, or play some of your favourite computer games to pass the time and keep you occupied
To ease tensions at home with my mum I would watch some of her favourite comedy shows with her. I’d enquire about her day, just get involved with her a little bit. What you can do is play board games together, watch some of your favourite shows together or just sit down and talk about your hobbies.
I had to adapt the daily foods that I ate. Instead of brown pasta I changed over to white pasta. As I like cheese I put lots of cheese on the pasta to make It suit more to my tastes. Instead of canned tuna I made cheese or beef sandwiches instead. Experiment with beef or cheese. Look for other alternatives. Tasting new foods can be fun.
It’s a difficult time for people on the spectrum. I hope that by reading this blog it can help you to understand that although change can be very difficult there is ways we can alleviate and adapt to our surroundings and keep our selves safe and healthy.
Christmas! The most wonderful time of the year for many. A time for sharing gifts, laughter and spending time with your love ones. However, Christmas often comes with higher levels of stress. For the neurotypical, this may be manageable, but for the 700,000 people in the UK that are on the autistic spectrum, Christmas has the potential to cause high levels on anxiety and distress.
Autism impacts how a person experiences the world around them, including how they see, hear and feel. The Christmas period is a busy time, defined by bright lights, lots of social events and loud noises which can be overwhelming for an autistic adult. Luckily, as a friend or family of an autistic adult, there are lots of things you can do to make this time happy and enjoyable for them.
- Ask them what works best for them
The Christmas period is a time of colourful flashing lights, loud music and decorations. This can be highly distressing for an autistic adult due to their sensory needs.
The National Autistic Society ran a campaign to help the public understand how autistic individuals process the world around them. The campaign, called ‘too much information’, has over 6.6 million views and highlighted that an autistic person can be sensitive to lights, sounds and smells. All of these things can go into overdrive at Christmas.
If you are having friends or family over and you know one of them is autistic, ask them (or their family) about their personal preferences to things like decorations, music and overwhelming smells (e.g. candles or incense). Just like you would ask if someone has any allergies you should be aware of, you’re asking how to make them feel comfortable in your home.
This could be anything, from turning the music down a bit or turning your Christmas lights of the flashing mode. These simple adjustments can help a lot!
2. Let them know where they can go to take a break if needed
Everyone needs a break from the Christmas cheer! If you have an autistic adult visiting, letting them know where they can escape to for a break if they need to. This is particularly helpful when they may not know the layout of your home or feel rude asking.
Planning your day in with an hours down time is especially helpful. This means that everyone can get a bit of rest, quieten down and enjoy the peace and quiet for a bit!
3. Try and keep schedules as normal as possible
The need for routine and predictability is common with autism, as Christmas brings a whole host of new events, activities, foods and people. You can help an autistic adult by trying to keep their schedule as normal as possible. This may include waking up and going to bed at the same time, eating meals at regular times and doing things they’re familiar with.
Other simple things that you should be mindful of include arriving on time to plans, following any schedule they provide for the meeting, and offering to work around their normal routine wherever possible. Remember, what may seem insignificant to you, like cancelling a get together or being 10 minutes late, can have serious implications to an autistic person’s emotional state.
4. Help them prepare for meeting new people
Socialising can be difficult for an autistic adult, especially when they’re meeting new people and faces. Autism may affect how well they are able to pick up social cues, especially when they haven’t met the person before and may not understand how to interact with their type of communication or humour.
One way you can help is by introducing the person before hand. This could involve something as simple as showing them photographs of them on your phone, describing a bit about who they are and how you know them. This helps reduce anxiety and gives them something to talk about when they meet.
This of course, is easier for events where you know everyone attending before hand. However, there are often situations where you may not. In this case, ask them if they would like to stay with you during the event. You can even discuss beforehand what they would like you to do if you notice them become distressed. This could be something as simple as getting some fresh air, finding a quiet space or excusing them from a conversation. This comes back to the first point; asking someone how they prefer to handle difficult situations can be the best way to provide the support they need.
5. Be patient and enjoy!
At Christmas, things don’t always go to schedule and unexpected changes or problems are sometimes unavoidable. Be aware that your friend, family member or child may not react well to this and provide them with the understanding and patience you would hope for if you were struggling.
Enjoy yourselves! Everyone is different and it can be exhausting for anyone. Remember to take some time out and relax and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.
Have a lovely Christmas from Stack Recruitment!