This wasn’t initially the plan, but I have now decided to do a Part 6 of this Autism and Me blog series. In this blog post I will talk about how this pandemic has impacted people on the autistic spectrum. This pandemic has impacted everyone and we have all faced our unique challenges, and this is no different for people with autism. Note that everyone on the autistic spectrum is different and so no two people on the spectrum would have faced the exact same challenges. Therefore, the points I make won’t be applicable for every single person on the autistic spectrum.
People with autism may have struggled with the change of routine that the pandemic provided
One thing that is common among many people on the autistic spectrum is that they thrive on routine, and changes in routine can lead to anxiety and stress. During the pandemic, we have had to live a life very different to our normal lives and therefore our routines would have changed in some shape or form. However, adjusting to a new routine is something people on the spectrum generally find tricky and stressful. Whether that is adjusting from being in school 5 days a week to studying remotely, or having extracurricular activities being cancelled, it isn’t easy to suddenly adapt to changes of routine if routine is what you thrive on. Note that for a good number of autistic people, the change of routine that this pandemic forced upon them may have been even more stressful than being stuck at home and not being able to go out. Furthermore, coming out of this pandemic will require another adjustment to people’s routine, which can prove hard for some people on the autistic spectrum.
People with autism would have more empathy for other people’s struggles
I have always said that one of the main positive traits of autism is that people on the spectrum are generally very emphatic and understanding of other people’s problems. In fact, I have always considered empathy to be one of my biggest strengths. Therefore, people with autism are very likely to be kind to others and be understanding of their unique challenges that they are facing at this time. The fact that people on the spectrum are understanding of people’s problems means that even if they can’t do anything in terms of giving advice, they can be an amazing help by being a good listener. It is important to mention that most people on the spectrum have faced numerous challenges on a daily basis due to their autism. This means that they can relate to other people facing challenges, even if the challenges itself are different. From my personal experience of being on the spectrum, I have learnt that everyone has their own battles and challenges that they face, which means that I can be more understanding if people are struggling at this time.
People with autism may have been more vulnerable to burnout
This point links to autistic fatigue, which is very different from professional burnout. I do believe that people on the spectrum have been more susceptible to burnout due to this pandemic. A lot of people with autism struggle with anxiety in some shape or form. As mentioned in the first point, the sudden change in routine would have caused massive anxiety and stress, and that in itself would lead to burnout. Furthermore, other life challenges that someone on the spectrum may face may become too much to deal with sometimes, and can lead to autistic burnout (I highly recommend you google search autistic burnout to know more). If you are friends with someone with autism, or know someone with autism, it is important you are aware that they may have struggled greatly with burnout this past year, and be understanding if they open up to you about it.
People with autism are resilient which would have helped them in some way this pandemic
I firmly believe that people on the autistic spectrum are very resilient individuals, as they overcome lots of challenges that autism presents them. Therefore, resilience is one of their strongest skills, which certainly comes in handy in a pandemic. Although autistic people would have faced challenges in things such as changes in routine, the resilience skills that they would have already developed pre-pandemic means that they will find a way to overcome this pandemic. I personally am grateful for the resilience skills I have developed, as it has helped me throughout the past year, and hopefully will help me post-pandemic.