Harrogate group's plea to help people with autism maintain the routine they crave during lockdown

Harrogate’s branch of the National Autistic Society (NAS) has spoken out on the critical importance of people with developmental disabilities being able to access meaningful support at a time of unprecedented disruption to the routine and structure they crave.

By Finola Fitzpatrick
Friday, 17th April 2020, 1:42 pm
Updated Friday, 17th April 2020, 1:44 pm

Following World Autism Awareness Week, Harrogate NAS member Hazel Griffiths - a retired emergency department nurse and parent of an autistic son, said everybody has a vital role to play in helping to provide stability and reassurance at this extremely difficult time.

She said: “This is hard for everyone, but I know for autistic people of all ages, these disruptions to routine can increase anxiety and see an increase in sensory challenges, often leading to misunderstandings, a meltdown or shutdown.

“Autistic people have difficulties managing uncertainty and change. It is essential that autistic people and their families are provided with the best resources to understand and communicate about the constant changes linked to the Covid-19 situation and how it can impact on their lives.

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Harrogate NAS member Hazel Griffiths.

“In addition, community support and services for autistic people are affected due to staff challenges, which causes extra anxiety for families to manage. Some may ask repeated questions, due to the increased uncertainty and forever-changing situation, seeking reassurance.”

Hazel is passionate about signposting support and ensuring no one feels alone during the crisis. She said: “My advice to support an autistic person during this crisis and help them to relieve some of their anxieties, is to help them create a new routine within their home to ensure they follow the government guidelines and rules on Covid-19.

“It’s important to ensure they take up exercise, but still maintain social distancing, or take advantage of the many online exercise videos. Make sure they have fun activities and hobbies to do, and limit the time they watch the news on TV as this can be quite overwhelming and increase their anxiety.”

Hazel has also urged residents to be understanding about the additional pressures being placed on family carers. She said: “It is important to remember that some family carers of autistic people are now acting as 24/7 sole carers since the closure of many public places. This can be full on for the carer, who is doing an amazing job. Please be patient and understanding.”

For advice, support and free resources, visit the National Autistic Society website: www.autism.org.uk.