Tips for Autistic adults managing covid-19 quarantine challenges

Let’s put it bluntly: the lockdown is rough. It’s difficult, unpleasant, and frustrating for pretty much everyone. However, being Autistic adds an extra layer to this – though the specifics of course depend on where you sit on the spectrum.

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Apr 28, 2020

Tiimo member

April 28, 2020
Lydia Wilkins
Guest Writer from Mademoiselle Women - Documenting life on the Autistic Spectrum

AD: I have previously worked with some of the brands mentioned. There are three affiliate links which are clearly marked.

Let’s put it bluntly: the lockdown is rough. It’s difficult, unpleasant, and frustrating for pretty much everyone. However, being Autistic adds an extra layer to this – though the specifics of course depend on where you sit on the spectrum.

Tiimo asked me to compile some resources that have been helpful for me through the lockdown. Please note that I’m not an expert, medical or otherwise. I’m just speaking from my experiences and hope that some of my tips can help you. I’ve divided them into the following challenges I’ve had and ways to cope with them:

  • Communication Disclosure cards, a health passport & other identification schemes can help with potential stress around communicating in the new circumstances under covid-19 lockdown.

  • Lack of structure, routine and dealing with uncertainty
    There are lots of resources out there including apps, webinars, and online resources to help you build a routine that works.

  • Boredom
    From free virtual museum tours, to games developed by Autistic animators, and ways to connect with the autism community online, there are lots of ways to crush your boredom.

  • Organisation and executive functioning issues
    Bullet journals and journaling in general have been helpful for a lot of people. Head to this section for productivity tips as well. But remember not to be too hard on yourself!

  • Exercise
    Exercise is a helpful stress-reliever for a lot of people, but also something that’s been limited by the lockdown. Check-out some of the free exercising resources like the 5K app, YouTube workouts that you can do at home without equipment, and free online fitness classes.

  • Celebrations and (distanced) social contact
    Of course a lot of us are missing in-person gathering! It’s still important to celebrate and connect with people. I’ve linked tips to celebrating your birthday under lockdown and some ways to connect with Autistic people remotely.

  • Anxiety
    Stem/fidget toys and sensory tools can help with the anxiety that comes with the lockdown.

Read on for detailed ideas and like to some strategies that are helping me cope with covid-19 lockdown!

Communication

I have a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome and advocating for myself is really difficult; I’m still learning strategies and techniques. I also haven’t seen a lot of information or resources for those who are/can be non-verbal. Please get in touch if you know of something.

Something that can help with communicating needs are disclosure cards. Prior to the lockdown, I travelled to the US alone. Undertaking a flight by myself for the first time was really daunting and disclosure cards were a great help. They could be useful under quarantine while undertaking an hour exercise daily, for example, in the case of being stopped and questioned. The National Autistic Society has a free download; you can also buy a card and matching lanyard from the Curly Hair Project.

Explaining health needs in clinical environments can be difficult, too. In case of being hospitalised, the National Autistic Society offer this health passport. Print and fill it out, it has sections for different needs.

Some UK police forces also offer identification schemes. With the increased presence of police officers, I feel worried I’ll be stopped, branded a ‘liar’ for my (sometimes) lacking eye contact. Some forces operate an identification scheme, which you can apply to for free. The full list is available here.

The sunflower lanyard can be helpful when shopping for essentials. It discreetly lets staff know you have an invisible disability, which can be helpful especially due to the extra stress in many shops due to covid-19 restrictions.

Lack of structure, routine and dealing with uncertainty

The part I have found hardest about lockdown is the cancelled plans, changes to routine, and the uncertainty that is a part of everyday life now.

Tiimo is great for plotting your routines; it works well for many Autistic individuals, as well as those with ADHD. It also has a great visual element, too. (Note: Tiimo has previously sponsored two issues of my newsletter) Visit their website here or download their app here.

The Curly Hair Project, a social enterprise by and for Autistic people, also offers great webinars. They’re currently running one that looks at adapting to covid-19. You can book your ticket here.

Boredom

Right now, a lot of us have additional ‘free’ time as well as additional stress. As a freelancer, my work has drastically dried up; I have more time now, but I don’t know what to do with it all the time. Fortunately, there are lots of online resources to help with this.

Do you love gaming? Here are a bunch of games about Autism, animated by Autistic animators.

There are also a lot of virtual tours right now. I love museums and exhibitions; going to them is something I miss. Here is just a big list of all the places you can virtually tour.

If you’re online a lot, you may also be looking at your Inbox far more. I wait excitedly for newsletters now! I currently run a weekly newsletter; it has an interview with a disabled individual, as well as resources for freelancers and Autistics under lockdown. Read the back issues here, and sign up here.

Oh, and The Metro has a list of free tutorials you can try out.

Organisation and executive functioning

I struggle with executive functioning issues at times. But I also know that there are strategies that I can put into place to help, which are really important to actualize right now.

On Instagram I’ve noticed that the bullet journal seems to be popular with many Autistic people. Hannah Gale has a basic guide that may be suitable for those who are self-employed and like to set goals. Emma Farely runs the website A Cornish Geek; she has a more traditional method, following advice from the founder of the method. I also like that Papier also wrote this piece about journaling while in isolation.

Here are a bunch of productivity tips with a wellbeing angle.



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Exercise

Restrictions for going outside are different around the world, so please take that into account when reading this section.

The NHS is offering videos on its website for people who like Pilates; if you like running, due to repeated motion, there is also a Couch to 5K app you can download. Some fitness studios are streaming classes for free if you like the structure of a class and there’s tons of home workouts on YouTube that take you through different strength building activities without gym equipment.

Celebration and (distanced) social contact

This is something else I am finding difficult. I had so many plans, people to see, places to travel to - but that can obviously no longer take place. Celebrating my twenty first birthday under lockdown was also certainly not how I imagined it and not as fun as it could have been, frankly.

Refinery 29 wrote a guide as to how to celebrate your birthday in lockdown here. If you’re looking for contact with other Autistic people, you can download Hiki, an app that lets you do exactly that (I have previously collaborated with Hiki on my personal blog.) There’s also the @autchatmod on Twitter periodically.

Anxieties

I am often mocked for my dislike of changes, the uncertain. I am also fed up with people not abiding by the rules in the UK - such as not to travel. But with lockdown lasting “at least” another three weeks at the time of writing, and many neurotypical people complaining about the stress that comes with uncertainty, I hope that these feelings might offer some insight into what it’s like to be autistic and deal with this stress around uncertainty on a daily basis.

But with lockdown lasting “at least” another three weeks at the time of writing, and many neurotypical people complaining about the stress that comes with uncertainty, I hope that these feelings might offer some insight into what it’s like to be autistic and deal with this stress around uncertainty on a daily basis.

ChewiGem is a brand that offers stim/fidget toys. I am a brand ambassador - so any purchases you buy through the links mentioned in this paragraph will result in me receiving a small commission. I really like the look of the Berries necklace. I also find that liquid timers, which were a birthday present, are a great asset to have in lockdown. I also love my weighted blanket.

21 & Sensory also has a great post about lockdown survival tips.

And if you’re still troubled by toilet paper and stockpiling, here’s a calculator for all that you need through the covid-19 quarantine. No more, no less.

I hope some of these tips might help you cope with lockdown. Feel free to reach out on Instagram or on my blog and tell me what’s helping you cope right now!

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