COVID-19 Series

Concentrating On COVID: One Year…

Today marks one year since many, including myself entered a world of unknown, While the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) had been in sparse populaces in our country and the world for weeks Many local governments took it seriously on this day one year ago. In the United States, measures were enacted, thus ensuring a slow the spread where it was at the time predicted that normalcy would return in two weeks. However, as we hit the one-year anniversary as the world we live in change dramatically, mental health in everyone is declining, not just in the autistics and individuals diagnosed with mental, intellectual or developmental dragonesses, but those who wouldn’t have any issue at all.]

 COVID has been particularly hard for everyone in the behavioral health system, specifically on the Intellectual/Developmental side of the coin that includes many autistics that need residential supports. One year ago, their lives were brutally uprooted. No day programs, no family visits, No social activities. Everyone was experiencing this as the world experienced a lot of unknowns. When closures occurred, we were told it would be two weeks so that everyone could follow a mandatory stay at home order. For many autistics, when you tell them something with that involves a length of time, it is engrained in our brains.

Some supporters of autistics keep the truth for them because if plans fail, as this one did obviously, then meltdown is experienced. However, you are doing a disservice because when they age and you especially as the parent are not here and when they are told things that are sometimes hard to manage, you are only passing the buck on others and not engraining the skills needed to manage when circumstances change. You are only kicking that can down the road because you feel your autistic cannot handle it in many cases. When in fact, they may do fine or if they learn the skills, manage the situation in a better manner.

Obviously, at the end of those two initial weeks, were told to wait another month. This delay was particularly hard because it spanned over the religious holidays of the spring season. Lockdown and governmental mandates became enhanced. However, with the use of technology, many telehealth services were implemented that exist at the present moment.

However, Schools across the country were physically closed to students, going virtual and presenting their specific challenges. Another month passed, and again we were told to give more time and a phased opening occurred in sections of the state and eventually we were freed of federal mandates and this was expected of the states to carry out the mandates.

As the world opened up for some, it did not for several autistics, especially those in residential placements. This resulted in services being delivered through technology. However, the mental effect of everyone has really set in. I went to my family doctor last week and was asked a new set of questions that haven’t been asked because the pandemic has been looming, While vaccinations are being attempted to be available to those who fall in categorical hierarchy, In my state, for example, while many with autistic and behavior challenges have underlying challenges that put them at the top tier,

Individuals with disabilities in general are set to be put in the second tier, however the government (which many do not have trust in), keeps pushing the general disability community further back the ranks. This is done by moving more individuals ahead of individuals with disabilities. Granted there are provisions for caregivers and those in residential settings, and while I respect those groups that have been advanced in priority, I personally feel this is a disservice to these fragile individuals that have been longing for over a year to return to normal life.

As such them along with everyone’s psyche has been deteriorated extremely and as a result we are sleeping, experiencing more shutdown and shutout and are just plain tired. We are zoomed out, but realize a need to be in attendance because we feel we need to be.  I can also tell you that I am seeing changes in youth and seniors and need to access care is increasing. Maybe it will develop a need for services to be more accessible and more clinicians to be added along with services to the system.

One way of getting there is getting everyone vaccinated and within time we will get there. Yes, it is one’s choice and we must respect that and we must also remember that vaccines do not cause autism, another myth. We don’t know a lot, but we must take care of ourselves and remember…we are all in this together.

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