Coping with COVID-19: For Self Advocates
Posted on 03/24/20 in Health by Nathan Morgan, MSSA, LSW
COVID-19 has probably had an impact on your life, whether it is that your favorite restaurant or hangout has closed, preferred foods are disappearing from store shelves, or you are feeling an increase in anxiety. Personally, I believe that those of us with autism are one of the groups impacted the most by sudden disruptions to our routines. To make matters worse, many of the self-care strategies we use might not be working right now. So what are we to do?
Write down a new schedule
Planning your day is perhaps the most important step you can take during a major disruption to your routines. Creating a general list of the activities you need to complete, while allowing plenty of time to engage in calming or preferred activities, can be a great way to decrease anxiety caused by feelings on uncertainty. If your employer has you working from home or your school has moved to online classes/homework, it is important to plan enough time to complete those tasks.
I have personally found that keeping my routine as close to normal has helped me tremendously. I wake up at the same time, I complete work related activities from 8am-4pm, and I try to go to bed around the same time I normally would. I have added more breaks throughout my day to listen to music or watch a YouTube video. In the evenings and on the weekends, I have planned for more time to play video games, read books, and watch shows on Netflix. Engaging in fun or distracting activities can be a great way at combatting anxiety and boredom, which leads me into my second tip.
Here is an Excel template that you can use to build your own daily schedule.
Find comparable activities
It might be the case that you don’t have any employment or school-related activities you can work on at home. This can be a great opportunity to practice a new skill (e.g. learning a foreign language, practicing an instrument) during the hours you would typically be at work. You could also read a book, do some household chores, or redecorate your living space. I think that even if you are not working or going to school, it is important to have daily activities that help us grow as people.
Unfortunately, work and school are not the only disruptions people are experiencing right now. Movie theaters, gyms, social gatherings, and other activities are also currently closed or could close in the near future.
- If you are a member of a group activity, ask the organizer if they plan to have meetings over the phone or online.
- Find new groups that match your interest – There are plenty of platforms such as Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook for people to discuss common interests. Personally, I really like Discord. Though it markets itself as a social platform for gamers (it’s great for that), there are plenty of groups that talk about various books, cooking, TV shows, among other topics and activities. The key benefit to the app is that you don’t need to add people as friends to have a conversation like you do on other social media platforms and conversations can happen in real time. There also tends to be a dedicated focus to many of the groups, so if for example you want to talk about Final Fantasy, there is bound to be a group discussing that.
Seek out support groups
If you are feeling isolated, anxious, scared, angry, or any other bad feeling, many organizations, such as NAMI, are putting together support groups to help. Here is a list of a few options that might be worth checking out:
- Amigo Counseling
- Anonymous Dual Recovery Support Group: Sundays, 6:30pm-7:30pm
- Autism Personal Coach
- Autism Society of Greater Akron
- Coffee, Tea and Autism
- Connecting for Kids
- Ellis Institure - 7 Cups of Tea
- Family Support Group: Tuesdays, 7:00pm-8:30pm
- Lake County Autism Support Group
- Mother to Mother
- NAMI Family Support Group
- Peer Virtual Support Group: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 7:00pm-8:30pm
- Yoga with Nicole
If you are a friend or loved one of a person with autism, this toolkit provides some additional ways you can be supportive during these uncertain times.
If you'd like more support or to speak to a member of Milestones' staff, please call the Milestones free autism Helpdesk at 216.464.7600 ext. 200 or complete an intake form here.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Nathan Morgan, MSSA, LSW, first connected with Milestones in 2015 as a professional intern. He then joined the Achievement Centers for Children as a full-time Early Childhood Mental Health Social Worker. Nathan returned to Milestones in 2018 in his current role as Early Intervention/School Age Coordinator. He is a self-advocate, actively sharing his experiences at events, on panels, local news, and our annual conference. Nathan has a BA in Psychology and Japanese from Kent State University and an MSSA from Case Western Reserve University.