Coronavirus Pandemic and the Negative and Positive Aspects for People with Autism

Introduction and Basics

Things develop vastly over time with a pandemic like Coronavirus.  At the time of writing, the date is 28th March 2020 and I live in England in the UK.  

Coronavirus started in China then quickly spread around the globe. It has, already, created chaos in all of our normal lives.  From a range of problems such as the economy, jobs, income, freedom of movement, closure of most shops, supermarkets running out of certain foods/supplies and of course potential illness.

Most people who get Coronavirus will be fine, but approximately 1 in 6 will need to be admitted into hospital and some people may sadly die.  Most of these deaths will occur to the elderly and those with underlying health issues.  A very small percentage of the deaths will be of people who are quite young and healthy.

This side effects of this virus will affect people with autism/Asperger’s in unique ways.  Some of these are below:

Dealing with Change

People like us with autism/Asperger’s would have already experienced severe change in our lives due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

School Closures, Not Working or Working from Home

Here in the UK (and across many countries in the world) schools, colleges and universities have closed. Many businesses have ceased trading.  Plus, we are on a nationwide lockdown.  So we are confined to our homes, and only allowed to leave to shop for essential items, caring for others or going to work in an essential job.  This will mean that you, or a member of your household, are likely to be temporarily out of work or working from home.

This extreme change to our routine will not be too severe, initially.  As we are used to spending time at home, in the family unit, for school/work holidays.  As time progresses it will become more and more difficult to adapt to the change.  After it’s all over, it will be even more difficult to go back to normality.

Food we Buy and Eat

Many people with autism/Asperger’s have a very limited diet.  They cannot eat many foods due to sensory problems, including the texture or the taste of it.  Due to panic buying, our preferred food may not be available.  Such as plain foods like rice and pasta. 

Limited amounts of our usual foods can cause a drastic change to our diet.  Those of us with more severe autism will have meltdowns if this become extreme.  For the rest of us it is likely to make us feel a short term sadness which could, along with the other changes, lead to depression.  

Where I live, supermarkets have run out of bread and pasta but the bakery still has fresh bread available.  Similarly, the butchers have plenty of fresh meat.  I have also got the ingredients in to bake fresh bread, if I need to, as it’s quite easy to bake.  I will also attempt to make fresh pasta if required.  I do believe this panic buying will be short term, and supermarket stocks will return to the normal levels.

If your normal food is scarce, it is definitely worth trying different foods in drastic times such as these.  Our tastes change over the years, and what we despised as a young child may be more palatable as an adult.  

Family Member in Hospital

I am really hoping this doesn’t apply to you.  Some people with autism will either be in hospital with coronavirus themselves, or have a close family member that has taken ill.  

Not having the support and care that you are used to, in the safe unit of your home, can be a detrimental change.  But remember nearly everyone gets better after having Coronavirus, even if they are in hospital, and things will return to normal quickly.

Lockdown in the Home and Not Seeing Friends and Family 

Most people with Autism/Asperger’s keep themselves to themselves and enjoy long periods of alone time.  

When talking to some of my autistic friends, they were really looking forwards to being on a lockdown.  But it is always worth remembering that we all need connections to other people such as close family or friends.  Not only for our mental well-being, but also so that we don’t feel lonely.  Which can build up overtime without you even realising.

Most of us will have a best friend or a favourite family member outside the home, such as a grandparent.  It will be especially hard to spend time away from them for several weeks.  So it is worth making an extra effort to keep in touch with them, even if it means in the traditional way such as sending a letter.

Financial Difficulties

With the immense measures that are in place with Coronavirus, I imagine it has affected the majority of families financially.  As it is so new, some of those affects may not have filtered through yet, but they could do in the months to come.

It could be yourself, partner, parents or carer.  In ways such as: reduction in hours, reduction in income or job losses.  As difficult as this change is for us, it is vital not to worry too much.  As this over worrying can also lead to depression, which will only make matters worse for yourself and family.  Most things work themselves out, and there is nearly always a solution to every problem.  The UK government seem to be putting all the right measures in place to help families and businesses.  It is worth staying positive and I genuinely hope that you’re getting all the financial help you need in these difficult times.

Constantly Checking the News

Many of us with Autism/Asperger’s have a thirst for knowledge and being constantly up-to-date with current affairs.  This means we check news sites and broadcasts frequently, and cannot switch off from this cycle.  As Coronavirus is such a hot global news topic, there are a vast number of articles written about it every day.  It is important, if you can, to try to limit the amount of checking you do.  To start with I would check several times an hour but now I have limited it to once every hour or two.  It is still far too much, but I feel better for being in control of it more.

Positives of the Impact of Coronavirus and Staying House Bound

It’s tough to believe there are benefits to this Coronavirus pandemic.  I am a firm believer in optimism, and that you can turn these difficult situations into something positive.  Especially being autistic/Asperger’s, as our mental health can be so fragile.

For me downtime is so important to begin with.  There is nothing wrong with resting for a week or two.  Because we’re autistic, we need time to adjust to the drastic changes.  We also need to build our strength for the changes that could soon come.  Maybe even a loved one, or our ourselves, being in hospital.  This could be the perfect time to get the rest our bodies and minds require.

Most people in the world aren’t autistic and most are very social.  We are in a position of strength in this pandemic, as we don’t need social contact as much.  Although we will still need to make an effort to make some contact with others outside of the home, through phone calls etc. 

Hopefully, if we or our families get this virus, we will fully recover from it.  It is estimated that less than 2% die from it.  So the chances of getting it in the first place, and then dying from it, are very slim (even slimmer if you are young, fit and healthy).  My heart goes out to those people who do sadly pass away.

At the moment we can drastically improve our chances of not getting it by staying in lock down.  I was a bit OCD with hand washing before Coronavirus, but now I use hand sanitisers and handwashing to a much higher level.  Whilst doing this I make sure I’m not too extreme as it could cause damage to my skin. 

In my country I genuinely believe that the number of cases, and people dying, will start to level off in the next week or two.  In addition, we may have already been infected without knowing.  We have beaten many other viruses and diseases in the past, through vaccination and I think this is our best hope for the future.  

After resting and getting up to full strength, I imagine this time will be more beneficial than not.  It is important to use the time effectively.  

I am still in work, as I am a key worker, but I only have to work one day per week at the minute.  I will spend my time home-schooling the children, getting on top of house work, working out meals and buying food (due to the panic buying situation) and still keeping fit by weight training every other day.  As I have written about in the past, exercise is vital to our mental and physical health.  Even gentle exercise such as walking or cycling is beneficial.  I will also try to read more books on my e-reader.  I try to keep my night times the same (to hold on to some of my routine) which I spend either reading, watching TV, listening to music or spending time of my computer.

If my time being off work increases I will certainly look into volunteering in areas such as the NHS or Land Army.  But for now I will keep me and my family safe and stay at home.  

I genuinely hope that all of you are fine throughout these difficult times. 

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