As many autistic people, I have difficulty experiencing when supports change. I define support as anything that is essential for me to experience my day. The past year has brought several changes of support in many autistics because of burnout of those providing support, I am no exception to the rule from experiencing this issue.
In the past few weeks in my reading of media, I have learned of a bus driver shortage for public school districts across the nation. This does in turn have a trickle-down effect on the autistic community because these individuals providing support are often times the first persons the autistic person encounters when leaving the cusp of their home supports and how these transportation supports interact on autistic individuals can make all the difference in how the autistic person starts and finishes their day or how that return trip back to their safe space can be.
I personally have been very lucky to have the same driver for over six years of which most of the past three I have been living on my own. He retired last week after 14 years of dedicated service to our day program, and I cannot be mad at him for doing it. Everyone as a result of the looming pandemic has been experiencing burnout and with the heightened risk of the Delta and now Wu variants of the Coronavirus, I can sympathize with his need to forgo and enjoy what years he has left.
It doesn’t mean it isn’t easy for me to process, but as he put it, we at our day program are “one big dysfunctional family” and I feel that I need to keep plugging for him because that is what he would want me to do. I need the support of the transportation to get to and from work, so for now, I kind of have to roll with the punches. I also have to realize that several (almost most) other drivers will not meet the caliber that he was at. As such, I need to lower the bar of expectations and only expect what is necessary and not expect a miracle.
I have looming feelings of wanting to quit it all and just be a home body, but what does that solve? I will not want to do anything and many fears about me gaining weight and I really can tell recently that I need to do something. I knew for almost three months that this change was occurring and have been practicing some duties that lessen my need on others that I can do myself by not being a crutch because it is convenient for me. Part of being independent is learning to do things yourself. While I know this is what must be done for now, I am beginning to feel an internal push of needing to be more independent and work on my anxieties about driving and I am actually thinking about someday getting back into the drivers’ seat and having my wheels of freedom, because after all, that was the purpose of getting a driver’s license.
2020 was a hell of a challenge for me with having to forgo my first apartment, have COVID hit, then get back on my feet to only experience another COVID resurgence, then with vaccination seem to be ahead to only have another gloomy outlook. The past 19 months have been a challenge for me but I never backed down from giving up. I haven’t been in the hospital in 21 years or placement in 20, of which with everything considered, count it and the other supports a true blessing.
I know this is a big change as many autistic people have experienced similar changes in the past year. I have learned that it is my turn to do the same and that no one can be scathed from the labor effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic. I know I have to continue to be there for everyone and remail resilient for them as the predecessor would want that to be the way to go and not to be up and arms. He was a role model of how to do things and I know there are some expectations, but in times like these we have to accept the bare minimum and do what is necessary by lying on other supports to hold up what is lost.