Since the beginning of this global pandemic we find ourselves in, society has changed dramatically. Everyone is stuck at home and routine has fallen by the wayside. Being autistic has always been associated with having a sense of order and routine. I certainly fall within that category and I love the expected. Nobody knows what way this is going and it troubles me.
Now that everyone is in the same position, it isn’t nice is it? The societal change definitely gives an insight into how autistic people feel when changes are afoot in our lives. I hope this time can be a situation where empathy arises from the ashes, so that people can understand how autistic people feel and have felt for their entire lives.
Like the prospectors of the American Old West, I try to find small glimmers of gold in a world covered in mud, sand and dirty water. This is how I have prospered as both an autistic person and a social worker helping the most vulnerable in society. In the current situation, I have waved my pan in the waters and found these five sparkles of gold for autistic people in lockdown. I brought myself back to my childhood and wondered what I would like at a time such as this.
1) Nurture YOUR passion or the passion of your child.
Autistic people are negatively viewed as having “obsessive and repetitive patterns of behaviour”. This has always troubled me because if you are autistic you are “obsessed”; if you are not autistic you are an “expert”. There is more time indoors to perfect your craft or the craft of your child. This is a chance to discover not only yourself if you are autistic, but for parents to discover their child. I find when people indulge my passions, I bloom. Using an autistic person’s passion positively is the key to their heart. When people talk to me about books, Ancient Egypt, Titanic or cars, I light up. I self-nurtured my passion for reading and writing to complete my debut book. I discovered more about myself at the time of writing the book than I ever did, despite all the supports I had in life.
2) Change your autistic perspective.
For too long I believed that I was somehow broken and had a “disorder”. I needed to get out of that negative headspace. Even though I am autistic, I read a lot about autism in general and most of it is incredibly negative. I had a societal pre-programmed view of what autism is and I never thought to question it. Autistic people are the most gifted people who have ever lived. Type “famous autistic people” into any internet search engine and your heart will soar, I guarantee it. I strongly recommend studying and learning about neurodiversity and the positive implications it has on the autistic community as a whole. Since becoming more involved in autistic advocacy, I have read more and it has opened my eyes tremendously.
3) Allow yourself and/or your child to “feel”.
I struggle with change, I always have done. This worldwide pandemic is a huge struggle for me. Do not belittle the feelings of autistic people because “we are all in the same position”. Technically, that is true, but our response may not be the same as some. We will all have bad days during this time. I think that it is positive to recognise when you have bad days and that feeling sad or apathetic is perfectly okay. There will be days that are more of a struggle than others. I have found that forcing me to feel a certain way has had the opposite effect. If someone tries to exert an abundance of positivity on me, it works in a way similar to reverse psychology. Internally, it can take some time to decipher my own feelings as I feel them. When I go through the range of emotions, I can make logical sense of a given situation and progress forward.
4) Take some control back.
One thing I have learned to do, by accident or design, is to try and turn any situation to my advantage as much as I possibly can. I love lists, making lists and checking off the tasks one by one as I achieve them. One example of this is how this pandemic has affected my book release schedule. I wrote my story on how my life from autistic child to autistic dad changed me forever. Given current circumstances, the launch and speaking tour didn’t go as planned. I am currently in the process of trying to arrange electronic events in place of my speaking tour that has had to be postponed. I love meeting autistic people like me, but given the current circumstances, I cant. This formula can apply to any special interest – repair that camera, write that book, make that film, make a medical discovery. The possibilities are endless when you can take control and channel your autistic superpower.
5) Plan for the future.
So you have nurtured your passion, you have changed your autistic perspective, allowed yourself to feel and taken control back. Now you can make plans of what to do with all of the above. You have the completed manuscript, you have that amazing photograph, and you have finished your painting or whatever your amazing talent may be. It is time to find a home in the world for your finished project. This is the time to make a detailed plan of who can collaborate with you to take it global. Work and social lives are on hold for the majority, so it gives you time to pounce when society moves forward again. For parents, this is an exciting bonding tool and a project you can work on with your autistic child. Not only will it lift both of your spirits, but it will take you on a relationship path you never knew was possible. When liked minded people come together, good things happen regardless of neurotype.
Jude Morrow is an autistic author, motivational speaker and social worker from Derry, Ireland. Jude’s debut book “Why Does Daddy Always Look So Sad?” is published by Beyond Words and available now from all major online retailers and book stores. For more on Jude – visit www.judemorrow.com