Autism and COVID-19 Safety Rules
By Megan Amodeo
I’ve really struggled with what I should write this month. This might be just a stream of words patched together. The problem is everything is upside down.
My world is nothing like it used to be.
It has only been this way for a few months. I literally woke up one day to another world. I guess we are all trying to figure out our new normal. We are all trying to find something that resembles our previous lives.
Routines have been washed down the drain with gallons of soap and water.
I suppose that can be considered a new routine. We have all been told to wash our hands, wear face masks and stay at least six feet away from others. These new rules replace our previous rituals.
The question for many autistic individuals is, do we want these new routines?
“Do I like walking around with raw, chapped hands from repeated hand washing? Do I want to wear a mask every time I step outside my front door?”
If I answer truthfully, I do not want to wear a mask. Masks are not comfortable for many of us on the spectrum. They can be bulky and hard to breathe in. They can make glasses fog up. They can be itchy.
The thing is, we must wear face masks for the safety of others. So, with that being said, I am trying to find the right mask. It needs to be soft and not too tight. Unfortunately, I am not sure how I am going to convince my youngest daughter that she must also wear a mask. She has more pronounced sensory issues than I do. So, I might need to explore neck gaiters and bandannas. It’s not just putting the mask on, it’s having to wear it the whole time I’m in public. I am not unique in the autism community.
Most of us on the spectrum have some kind of sensory issues.
I don’t mind washing my hands, but I have a strong dislike for hand sanitizer. I really don’t like the feeling of any type of gel sanitizer on my hands. I started using hand wipes, but those are becoming scarce due to the pandemic. Therefore, I have to use hand sanitizer if there isn’t a sink nearby. Sensory wise, it is a struggle.
Then there’s the whole social distancing issue.
This rule is an autistic dream come true. Many of us do not like to be touched, especially by strangers. I fully support this rule. It releases me from having to remind people not to get too close to my space bubble/area around my person. I think this is a rule the entire autism community is applauding.
“I become incredibly uncomfortable and increasingly anxious when people stand too close to me in lines at stores. With social distancing, everyone stays in their own safe space.“
Now everyone wants to distance themselves from others. As a result of social distancing, it is much harder for people to chitchat. Before the six-foot rule, strangers would often strike up conversations while waiting in line at stores. It’s a lot more difficult to make small talk when you have to shout at people so they can hear you. Chitchat and small talk are exhausting, and not particularly interesting to most of us.
The more I think about it, the whole social distancing thing is really pretty great.
Obviously, social distancing is the result of a horrific pandemic. I want the pandemic to go away, but I’ll keep the whole social distancing thing. It is nice to know that I don’t have to ask people to give me more space. This has always been especially tricky in long lines, like at amusement parks. I will never understand why anyone would want to stand shoulder to shoulder with another person.
It is safe to say that I am not going to be even remotely upset about continuing to practice social distancing. So, while I await the next phase of this worldwide crisis, I will be ecstatic about social distancing and hopeful that the we find a vaccine or a cure.
Until then, I will be scouring the internet for toilet paper and disinfectant wipes. Stay safe, and applaud social distancing.