Autism Awareness in the era of coronavirus
April 2nd 2020
Today is Worldwide Autism Awareness Day but you may not hear much about it because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Think about the current situation for just one minute. It will, just a little, give you a clue about what autism is like every day. Autism never goes away but the pandemic will at some time, even if we don’t yet know when.
Are you finding the current situation confusing and you’re not quite sure what to do next? Welcome to our world. The ability to figure out the correct sequence for a number of steps in order to accomplish a goal is called executive functioning. For you, the confusion is that so many new things are coming up at once. Some people with autism have a reduced executive functioning ability. They struggle every day, or even many times per day, to put a multi-step plan into action.
Have you looked to other events for some insight about what may happen here? Have you read about the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918 in case there is something to be learned from that? Have you read about right and wrong steps that other countries have taken? When thinking about the economy, have you made comparisons to the financial crisis of 2008/9? You do those things in order to “generalize” from one known situation to new and unknown situations.
If you are finding it difficult to generalize in the current situation, imagine what it is like for us. We tend to be very detail oriented because details are very tangible. We can, frequently, have huge difficulties with generalizing and it can make new and unknown situations quite terrifying for us.
Are you feeling isolated as a result of social distancing? That comes from not communicating with others as much as you are accustomed to. Now imagine what some people with autism face every day. One of the primary features of autism is difficulty with communication. In fact, as many as 40% of people with autism are described as non-verbal or as having ‘limited verbal ability’. Isn’t it hard when you want to communicate but can’t? It is one of our constant challenges.
When will it all end? We may not know, yet, when the pandemic will be over. For autistic people, their challenges will remain, plus plenty of other challenges that we haven’t mentioned here. They will still be here next April 2nd.
So, world, when you are past the pandemic, think back to what some of these things were like for you and imagine, for a moment, what life is like for autistic people. Think about us. Give us your acceptance and, when asked, a little assistance to live in your world.
Somebody from the autism community