Autism and the Pandemic: A Mother’s Journey: Part One
As a mother with a young child on the Autism spectrum, the onset of the pandemic was devastating. Literally, my son was at his nature morning program at his early intervention preschool program one day then everything was shut down the next. We went from having a robust schedule of school, therapy, play dates, lessons, errands and a variety of other extracurricular activities and options to keep him active and regulated to nothing.
We had just moved weeks before from a townhome with a yard to an apartment building. At the time I was excited to move back to the community where I had lived before he was born as it had so many amenities I knew my active then 4 year-old would love: playground and park across the street, a pool and sun deck, a sandbox area for children to meet and socialize and numerous restaurants as he likes to “brunch”. It was an adjustment in space but a much better opportunity for both of us to socialize and meet other children and families. That opportunity was now gone.
Holden’s preschool class consisting of special education and typical peers was now distance learning. His very experienced teacher struggled to adapt to the technology involved to move to distance learning. I struggled as well. I received lesson plans every day, many requiring supplies I didn’t have and my son didn’t understand why I was trying to recreate “circle time” with no teachers or other children. Most of his services didn’t translate well via Zoom, some easier than others.
Thankfully, my son adapted well to wearing a mask since we now lived in an apartment building but it was a challenge to find safe and open places for him to get fresh air and exercise. He wanted to leave the house but now said that “yucky germs were everywhere”. His reliance on his routine and schedule are strong and we needed to recreate our new reality with no time for planning, something that is a necessity for everything we do to reduce meltdowns and to make transitions more smooth.
Also, what about his services? I had a plan in place for weekly behavioral therapy in our home, speech, occupational therapy and a psychologist. How much regression could be expected? He came to look forward to his regularly weekly playdates with friends. Would he lose the social skills progress he worked so hard to gain? How could I know that he understands what’s going on and the feeling of loss? Not to mention, managing my own emotions of keeping us safe and healthy and worrying about loved ones becoming ill and the devastating loss of life that was occurring every day.
Once our world shut down we at least had some hope it would end soon…but when? When would he go back to school? When would the places he loved to go be open and when they did open, would they be safe? Would it be worth the risk? How would a single mom of an autistic child who was already under an extreme amount of stress figure it out? Is there something out there that could help me stay organized, manage my son’s needs and alleviate some of this stress? Some technology that could alert me when I needed to do a sensory diet or make sure he had a snack or track his sleep to give us both a better handle on the day-to-day? I hope so…Stay tuned