With schools across Europe closed in an effort to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, millions of children and their parents are now being confined to their homes.
My eldest son has autism, severe epilepsy and associated learning difficulties. He also cannot talk so communication is often down to guesswork.
My current guess as fear, anger and incomprehension flicker across his eyes, is that he is suffering from heightened anxiety because the pandemic and the confinement measures have abruptly disrupted his routine.
We wholeheartedly embrace our duty to keep our son and ourselves at home, but as we do, we wonder how other parents like us are coping.
‘This is our normal’
We have depended on France’s wonderful doctors, nurses and caregivers for nearly 20 years and have always been filled with admiration for medical staff despite witnessing the increasing strain the system is put under.
In France, an estimated one-in-150 people have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Talking to parents who also have children with ASD, I’ve discovered that their experiences are as broad as the spectrum itself.
Several of the parents I spoke to told me the new restrictive measures have made little difference to their daily lives — about 80% of autistic children are excluded from mainstream school in France.
“Al hates crowds, lots of noise and he is home full-time because there’s no available place at any specialised school, so this is our normal,” Heidi told me.
Fiona, another mother, simply said that “self-isolation and homeschooling is a normal day for us with autism”.
Isolation is one of the key by-products of autism. Research carried out by autism.co.uk shows that autistic people are among the most lonely in the United Kingdom.
Crowds and noises can be overwhelming and frightening, leading to sensory overloads which in turn can trigger behavioural challenges and difficulties. Parents, dealing with the prospect of a meltdown coupled with the glaring lack of empathy from by-standers choose to stay at home.
Nerves frayed and frazzled
For Kylian’s mum, Elodie, the situation is extremely stressful. Kylian does not understand what is happening and thus lurches from meltdown to meltdown.
With his school closed, she has to watch him every waking moment or face dealing with “catastrophes and tantrums”. Add working from home and looking after her younger daughter into the mix and the situation is practically impossible to manage.
For full article, please visit: https://www.euronews.com/2020/03/21/life-on-coronavirus-lockdown-with-an-autistic-child-view