Most of 2020 and gearing into 2021 we have had a great deal of change to routine. To the autistic community, this can be perceived as a nightmare. I hear of many individuals and families struggling and not being able to do the things that they can do pre-COVID. It stresses many and leads to autistic burnout, meltdown and shutdown. There are many that learn to adapt, however some have the inability to do that.
With it comes the great mask debate, which I personally feel is quire unique to individuals on the spectrum, some do great (such as myself) with it and can tolerate it for long instances, as it is often required by the day programs and schools we visit. For many in this regard that are rigid in the adherence of rules and regulations, many feel that this is a necessary evil and that it makes the day go smoother, we can go to the shops and do things that require the daunting of the mask. That doesn’t go to say that many autistics do struggle with wearing masks and at a time our state leaders here did a good job of understanding this by providing an exemption in this order for some time as it was feasible. However, as case counts continued to rise, the masks had to be more enhanced. It is working, but autistics have to find alternative face coverings such as a face shield to visit shops, etc.
For the autistics in school and those attending day programs, work, and other controlled environments, I feel you. These enhanced protocols are tiring, cause increased tension, anxiety and other related conditions. I personally know the struggle when having to go through these procedures and being in anxiety of other persons not daunting their PPE or not keeping their space. We as autistics are oftentimes very rigid in following the rules and when we see others not doing it, it can be trying and tiresome because we want this to be over and by them not following the rules it isn’t helping.
Another part of the enhanced protocols is that of the changed routine and schedules we have become accustomed to for time to not only have them abruptly changed time and time again because of community spread of COVID cases and the need to be properly distanced. Also the ability to be attentive to multiple screens at a time is a concerning issue, as autistics oftentimes to take in the allure of screens, many times the additional screen time as a result of having to attend functions normally held in person remotely via a home computer screen and the ability to move around your personal space can be challenging to say the least. It is a struggle with it and getting the need to become physically active. I have been trying to be more active as I can, but to be honest it is challenging to say the least.
Lastly, as we know the employment sector has taken a toll as a result of the pandemic, more specifically the fast food community. We sometimes cannot go to a fast food location (as I once enjoyed) and just sit down and enjoy a meal like we once did in many locales. I am also seeing In many locales that these establishments are not only adjusting their hours to enhance additional cleaning protocols, but they are also having to limit their hours due to the inability of having people to work at a minimum wage, thus disturbing the routine of the autistic person when they cannot go and sit down at a favorite restaurant or get a food that they enjoy.
We as autistics must be aware and try to cope in our own way if we can with the understanding that things are continually changing and that it is not our fault and that people are not being the way they are because they want to but because they have to be, they oftentimes don’t like it as much as you do, but it a necessary evil that must be followed to keep everyone safe and sound. I personally get that it is rough and challenging, but it is a necessary evil that must be adhered to and followed to keep us safe.