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Being autistic in a post-lockdown world

Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,662 Disability Gamechanger
edited July 2020 in Guest blogs

This guest post has been written by Cheryl. She has Autism is worried how she will adapt to a post-lockdown world and if she can continue to have adventures with her daughter.

It’s been more than two months since I left my house. Before the COVID-19 lockdown the world I lived in was a predictable environment.

I’m autistic. I struggle to cope with crowds and get overwhelmed by busy environments, but I’ve always managed.

I have a young daughter and together we’ve been on so many adventures. When she was just three years old, we went to London. We tackled the busy London Underground and major attractions like the London Eye, Sea Life Centre, and Madame Tussaud’s. Day-to-day life is no different, and although I often struggle, there are few attractions we haven’t been to.

Since my daughter was born, a relaxing day at home has been a rarity. We’ve been to UK theme parks and busy arcades. We’ve traveled from crowded shopping centres to busy cities. Facing challenges has allowed me to show my daughter the world. Not just for her, but for myself as well. I have loved every single adventure!

A busy tube carriage

Adjusting to lockdown

In late March we went into lockdown. It’s now June and I haven’t stepped beyond my front garden in over two months. I’ve joked that I’m designed for lockdown, and in many ways this has been a dream. Sure, I miss family and friends, but this is a world that’s tailored to meet my needs.

The lockdown world is a world where people work from home, life is quiet and everything goes at a slower pace. I’ve not had to deal with overwhelming crowds, changes to my plans or even challenging social situations.

Shops became inaccessible and online deliveries didn’t account for the needs of autistic people but, on balance, living in lockdown has been more positive than negative.

Lockdown, in a strange way, is comforting and safe.

What comes after lockdown?

This week, the UK has started to come back to life. Like a machine that’s been paused, it is now powering up once again.

The problem is, this isn’t like before. We aren’t going back to what we had before lockdown – the queues at a fast food drive thru show that. Instead, as people celebrate their freedom, they’ll be out and about making the world more crowded than it’s ever been before.

Things that I could manage before lockdown, like the average everyday crowd, will now be significantly heightened and beyond what I’m capable of coping with.

People will take advantage of the attractions they’ve missed, the beaches, the open spaces, the shops, the restaurants and anywhere else they can think of. If these places were busy before the lockdown, that’s nothing compared to how they’ll be as we start being released from our homes.

As an autistic person, the post-lockdown world has the potential to isolate people more so than before.

People rushing around escalators with their movement blurred

A post-lockdown world

During lockdown, I’ve thought ahead with excitement and trepidation. I’ve been excited to visit all the places I’ve missed, but I’m worried about the extra crowds. Those worries were pushed to the back of my mind, helping me to stay optimistic.

I looked forward to a short break at the end of the summer, to visiting museums and family attractions at the weekend. I was excited for visits to splash parks, shopping trips and outdoor adventures. Yet, there was always a little voice in the back of my mind. How will you cope?

Yesterday a UK zoo, closed due to the pandemic, posted a heartfelt plea. Money was running low, they needed funds and they were asking the public for help. One option, for those that wanted to contribute, was to buy a ticket in advance. The premise is simple, you pay up-front and then use the ticket in the future. That’s when reality struck.

As an autistic person, I have no idea what happens in a post-lockdown world. I’d have thought nothing of visiting the zoo before lockdown, but it’s now very likely that even bigger crowds will descend on attractions like these. So many places, that were once just about accessible, will now become too overwhelming.

I was close to buying tickets for the zoo. I told myself that by 2021 everything will be back to normal. Yet, the truth is, I can’t begin to predict how long this adjustment will take.

Places that I coped with are now going to be overwhelmingly busy, and there's no way of knowing how long it'll be before things settle back down.

Post-lockdown challenges for autistic people

Whilst others enjoy the chance to return to freedom, there’s a risk that autistic people are going to be pushed out completely. Things that are exciting for others, can be worrying and nerve-wracking if you’re autistic.

With everyone wanting to go, and demand for tickets higher than ever, when will I be able to take my daughter to the zoo? When will we walk around a shopping centre? When can I next go and spend a day at the beach?

For many, the news of the world re-opening is incredibly exciting. Spare a thought for autistic people who might need to watch this world through a window.

Have you thought about a post-lockdown world? How do you feel now lockdown is easing? Let us know in the comments below!

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Replies

  • kaiasparrowkaiasparrow Member Posts: 28 Courageous
    edited July 2020
    This was a great read! I think I have autism but my parents wouldn't push forward with it when I was a child and I am not sure how easy it is to get diagnosed as an adult. I was thinking about this topic the other day - lockdown has made shopping a much more bearable experience for me. No busy aisles, no one getting too close in my personal space, people don't try to talk to you... The one way systems around supermarkets were great but not observed enough. At quiet times I loved the methodical route around the store and it meant no crossing paths with anyone. Since restrictions eased up it's gone straight back to "normal" :( They are letting everyone in now at shops near me, no capacity on big stores, no queue systems, no one way systems etc, and I found it really overwhelming. I don't really say much about it in my life as I feel a bit horrible complaining about it when there's a pandemic going on but it really was so much better while the controls were in place!
  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,662 Disability Gamechanger
    Some great points @kaiasparrow! The quiet times can definitely help with overwhelming situations. Also, because I haven't been in busy environments for months I'm more apprehensive and can imagine it being very overwhelming.

    It is very possible to get a diagnosis as an adult and support is available. Here is the procedure of getting a diagnosis as an adult. Please do let us know how you get on. :)
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  • SarahMusicMaker70SarahMusicMaker70 Member Posts: 1 Connected
    @Kaiasparrow I only got diagnosed last year in June as Autistic Spectrum Condition aged 48, It was a long wait for the Assessment then a short wait for my Diagnosis, I got the form for a referral from National Autistic Society, Then I filled it in took it to my GP who agreed to the referral and they sent it on to Autism At Kingwood who organised my Assessment and Diagnosis, They were really good and talked it all through with me about various workshops and social meet up that happen locally.

    @Chloe_Scope That's a very interesting article, I would have loved home delivery but did not consider myself as vulnerable and made myself go to the Supermarket once a week, It has been very strange since just before Lockdown I was shocked at seeing emptiness on some of the shelves I had a little cry in the middle of the Supermarket when the reality hit me like an emotional tidal wave, I managed to pull myself together pay for my shopping then drive home, I've been going to my other favourite Supermarket that is just outside of Town in theory a bit quieter and less crowded.
    I work full time but have been furloughed since April 20th so have had much less interaction with people, I don't mind that, I still chat to friends on messenger, FaceTime and Zoom calls where I attend Open Mic events and Folk Clubs. Occasionally I think it would be nice to have a hug, I Live alone and fully independent but am starting to feel anxious and nervous about going back to work with the prospect that everything will be different, Might have to wear Masks and Scrubs and follow totally new procedures.
    It's now July 2020 and Iv'e just been invited to a friend who will be having a Music gathering in their Garden with a large Marquee I'm really looking forward to it as it won't be crowded due to only 6 people allowed, In a way I don't want the old Normal to return I can't stand crowds either but I do attend Music Festivals and enjoy Camping.
    I'd Love to go to the Seaside but preferably a quiet one with no crowds.

  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,662 Disability Gamechanger
    Welcome to the community @SarahMusicMaker70! Thank you for sharing this with us. :)
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