‘All the adults are freaking out because they don’t like the sudden change in routine!’: Autism mom says ‘autism doesn’t allow change; he expects his old normal back’

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“It has been four months since school closed. Four months of no routine, a whole new normal, and a lot of time on our own. And boy, has it been a crazy few months!

On March 12th, we got the call, the one we had been dreading. The call that told us my little boy’s school was to close, due to COVID-19. On that day, we were told it was for two weeks, and that scared us enough. You see, autism doesn’t allow for change, and I was dreading the impact these two weeks would have on him.

Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

Little did we know, those two weeks would turn into four months. Four months filled with social distancing, lock down, not seeing family or friends, and a whole lot of worry about what could happen. COVID-19 changed everything. It turned our lives upside down. It created anxiety in a little boy, who can read, but cannot speak properly. On a visit to the doctor’s office, he worryingly asked her if he had coronavirus. He is 6 years old. And it made me wonder about the worry going around in his little head. It caused regression for so many kids with special needs, because their normal was taken from them. As parents, it caused so much heartache, because we only want our kids to thrive, to be happy. And, this pandemic threw so many into turmoil.

This virus turned our lives, as adults, upside down. But, the impact on kids like my little boy, was something no one could have predicted. Kids who thrive on routine, but now had to learn this new normal. Kids who need therapies and support, which was all whipped away overnight. Kids who can struggle socially on a normal day, and work so hard to cope in those situations, and were now thrown back into a world where we were all isolated.

COVID-19 changed everything.

The world is now opening back up, slowly but surely. But, it isn’t as it was before. We have a whole new normal. A world filled with social distancing, mask wearing, huge worry for our most vulnerable, and a whole lot of sanitizer.

This also means our kids must go back to school. Something which was always such a safe space, is now a parent’s biggest worry.

How will our kids cope with this new normal?

Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

A normal where they may have to social distance from their friends, and not be able to play in the yard. A normal where their whole environment will change. A normal where PPE and sanitization will be routine. This new normal will be a huge change for so many children, but for kids like my little boy, it is something which scares me beyond belief.

He has no concept of social distancing; a lot of the time, he has no spacial awareness. In school, he loves to sit on his SNA’s lap to read a book. He loves to cuddle at movie time. He might need hand over hand help for an academic activity, help using the toilet, and someone to help him if he gets hurt.

He is a huge flight risk, and needs to be in contact with an adult at all times, to ensure his safety. Holding hands is his ‘normal.’

He reads people’s facial expressions, and now, masks are to be worn. He will run and hug someone randomly, because before the pandemic, we worked so hard with him on forming relationships and showing affection. We worked so hard with him to learn how to share, and now, he will not be allowed to do it. How do you tell him to undo everything he has worked so hard for?

His classroom will change to fit in with restrictions. His teacher and the staff may have to wear PPE. The whole school environment will change — with new layouts, PPE in place, and restrictions like we have never known before — and my little boy’s safe space is going to be like starting over.

It has been a long four months, and while we wait for the information and dates to return back to school, the anxiety grows for this new normal. Because autism doesn’t allow for change. My little boy expects his old normal back, and as a mom, there is nothing I can do to change this.

Courtesy of Nicole Duggan

COVID-19 may have rapidly changed our lives, but for kids like my little boy, Riley, these changes will have a huge effect. Unlike us, he may not be able to tell us his worries, the things he dislikes, or the things that upset him.

We thought schools closing was our biggest worry. But what happens when the schools opening up seems all the more scary?

Only time will tell.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Nicole Duggan, of Cork, Ireland. Follow her on Facebook here and Instagram hereDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube  for our best videos.

Read more stories from Nicole here: 

‘No, no, don’t sit next to him darling, move away.’ This sentence cuts like a knife. It shatters my heart into a million pieces.’: Mom of autistic son wishes no other parent to ‘experience this ignorance’

‘How did you know?’ My little baby went completely silent, no words, no babble, nothing. There were warning signs, we just didn’t know.’: Mom’s journey with autistic son

‘Do you work?’ My answer was no. I thought about that last night and realized, I was wrong.’: Mom of autistic son reflects on 24/7 job of being a special needs mom

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