As you all are experiencing, this is a difficult time. For children with autism in particular this period presents additional challenges (change of routine, loss of familiar people etc). I have been speaking to people (families, people with autism, special school teachers and health staff) both in UK and India about how families / carers are overcoming the challenges during this period.
I hear both positive stories of how people have overcome these challenges as well as how families are struggling. I spoke to Akshadhaa foundation in Bangalore and heard their inspiring experience of using technology to provide support and educational activities for the children who use their service.
Listen to the Akshadhaa foundation story.
I have heard how an organisation in UK has used video exercise lessons, online mindfulness sessions adapted to the needs of people with autism. They also used imaginative weekly challenges and prizes to keep service users engaged. I was impressed by their creativeness around this. Further information on this is not fully online yet but you can get a feel of this following the link below
I spoke to a teacher from rural India who is leading an exceptional special school for children with a variety of disabilities. She talked about the efforts they have taken to contact families over phone, whatsapp etc. They provided instructions and then followed up the children’s progress over phone or whatsapp inspiring and motivating children to continue the work.
In spite of the above efforts, I am also aware of people with autism and their families really struggling to cope with the locked down leading to an increase in anxiety and behaviours and over reliance on medications to manage behaviours. There were also some extreme situations in India where some families had to lock up their children in a room even if it was for a short duration.
I hope that we can learn from the innovations which came out of this adversity but it is very important that we learn from the hardship as well. A society is considered developed when it is thinking of the most vulnerable members. I do hope governments and governmental organisations would consider the needs of people with autism and people who are similarly vulnerable as we continue the locked down and if we have to go down the same route in future.