January 17, 2021

Autism in a pandemic

By rosieweldon

I have always found that the hardest time for people to support my autistic needs is when everyone is already struggling. But the thing is, when everyone is struggling, there is a really good chance I am also experiencing heightened challenges driven by autism.

At the end of last year redundancies were unexpectedly announced at work. For those who have read my memoir, my autistic fight song, you will know I went through hell to find Exchequer. When I did, I was amazed to find somewhere I felt comfortable. In an instant it was all taken away and I experienced psychological distress so profound words will never do it justice.

That day I received the message loud and clear from my boss, ‘now is not the time for your autism’.

Never in my life have I wished so much to not be autistic, than on that day. The whole company was struggling, people were jobless. I wasn’t jobless but I was thrown into a meltdown and subsequent mental breakdown.

I feel like there are a lot of the community feeling this message right now. That now is not the time for autism. Whether your own or your child’s it may feel like we need to silence autism.

Well guess what?

Now is the time for autism. If you are struggling, then now is the time for people to listen. Now is the time for people to support you.

A global pandemic is not going to stop any autism driven needs. The community needs to lean on each other and our friends and family the same way we lean on our support network normally.

Our autistic needs can’t be turned on and off. If they could we would turn them off all the time!

Within the community we need to accept that it is okay to be struggling in different ways to other people at the moment. It’s okay to still have a meltdown over a different brand being delivered even though the pandemic has driven that change. Your child isn’t being inconsiderate and mean for crying out for their routine, even though the pandemic has driven that change.

That day at work I was accused of having ‘no compassion’ because I couldn’t turn off my autism. That is beyond a ridiculous thing to ask of us. Autistic people facing their usual (and intensified) struggles during this pandemic is in no way whatsoever a reflection of lack of care for the state of the world.

Now more than ever the autism community needs patience and kindness.

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