HOW AUTISTIC NICK IS DEALING WITH HIS WEEK.
Since the last blog post I wrote was published here in Western Australia have just come out of a ‘snap’ 3-day lockdown.
During that time, I had to learn to adjust to routine changes as rules and regulations were being put into place and then practice.
I was slightly more prepared this time around that I had previously been.
We had previously before this one had a 5-day lockdown.
But this time around I was at work and the wave of anticipation of the prospect of entering another lockdown terrifying to me.
Although as my friend in the UK told me she’d been in a 9-month lockdown so – some perspective there.
Masks became mandatory whenever we had to leave the house. I simply cannot stand wearing a mask. I want to rip the thing off my face and burn it!
It’s a sensory issue for me as on the surface, there’s the scratchy texture of fabric, tight contact where the top of the mask meets the skin, and the tug of elastic on the ears. Sensations under the mask for me are no more pleasant and include the warm, damp smell of recycled air and also, I can smell my own breath! In addition, the sensation of breathing in and exhaling air through the nose can for me feel more restrictive.
Having said this, I did (and I still don’t know how to this day how I did it) but I wore it for an hour during an exercise physiologist session!! )
I also wore it on the Thursday when I went to Aldi to do my weekly food shop. That only takes me half an hour.
In both cases I was mentally prepared.
But when it came to travelling on the train into work and back, I was lucky enough to be able to work from home. This will continue this week too as masks are still mandatory.
I don’t believe that I would be able to survive wearing a mask for a total of 6 hours. That’s four in the office and then one hour on the train there and one hour on the train back.
I’m rounding it up to an hour it’s like 45 minutes, but I am factoring in driving to the station. So don’t @ me!!
Then there were the rules and regulations. I’ve said this time and time again. For Autistic people we need the information to be told in a visual storyboard way.
This is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. And this one.
The information in the above images is clear and concise, and I don’t feel overwhelmed by it. Listening to the news and hearing press conferences given by our premier can for me trigger me. I can’t sometimes understand what’s being said or I get confused.
By seeing it spelt out in this way I can digest the information and I don’t feel as overwhelmed as I did previously.
How else could I have prepared myself for the lockdown and how could I have managed my anxiety and emotions?
Below are 7 ways in which I could have managed my emotions and anxiety with this and any upcoming lockdown.
Allow time for the individual to process the change and adjust to the new circumstances. Changes in routine are much more difficult for those with Autism and accepting what seems like a small change to others can take some time for the individual.
Validate their feelings, and that it is ok to feel that way. “I know this is a change in routine/schedule and that makes you worried/scared. That is ok.”
Describe the change, using clear and concrete language. Do not use unnecessary wording. Having the change communicated to them clearly and definitively will help the autistic individual in the process of accepting the change.
Create positive associations with the new change. If the change is that their school is closed for the day, talk about an activity they really enjoy that they can now do instead.
Make time for the individual to engage in self-calming activities such as stimming or deep breathing. Reassure them by reminding them that you are there if they need you.
Make a social story about changes in routine. Social stories are a simple, walkthrough guide to help those with Autism know what to expect from a given situation. By making the situation about change in routine, it will help to prepare them for a range of different schedule changes.
Support the change with visuals such as First and Then. By visually representing the change, and showing what will happen after, it will help to alleviate any further anxiety surrounding the unexpected.
What did I learn from all this? Well, I learned that sometimes changes occur and that whilst I may not have control over things like this happening, I do have control over how I deal with it.
CARRY ON THE CONVERSATION
How do you deal with changes to your routine?
Let me know about your experiences in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.