April is World Autism Awareness Month, and we need to be cognizant that those with autism face the COVID-19 pandemic with additional challenges.
Teresa Hedley, author, advocate, educator, curriculum designer and mother of a twenty-one-year-
To help her son Erik cope in these unpredictable times, Hedley created what she calls a COVID-19 blueprint. It is a battle plan with three categories: Things I Know; Things I Might Be Feeling; Things I Can Do. Erik then has a dropdown menu of explanations and options.
“This is his lifeline. Now he feels in control, and it is what Erik absolutely needs,” Hedley says.
Some things that help Erik self-regulate are walking in nature, listening to music, seeking deep pressure, watching his favourite movies or doing something creative. Although these are great grounding techniques for anyone who feels dysregulated, they are especially important skills for someone with autism.
“If we had never taught Erik to self-regulate, he would be reacting completely differently now. He would be falling apart. Instead, he is leading the way, self-regulating,'”
Autism doesn’t just affect the person with a diagnosis. “Autism is absolutely a family affair,” says Robin Harwell, founder of Build the Brain in Dallas, Texas.
Hedley’s upcoming book What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey With Autism is scheduled to be released this October in time for Canadian Autism Awareness Month. Harwell states, “This book not only educates, it inspires.”
Former CBC anchor and chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge chimes in on behalf of Canadian families living with autism: “… there are a lot of lessons on these pages for all of us, and we can benefit from considering them—and acting upon them.”
Canadian Armed Forces Director of Military Family Services, Colonel Telah Morrison, agrees: “It is, at its core, a great story of hope, compassion and resilience.”
While our new normal continues to evolve, supporting those with autism has never been more important. World Autism Awareness Month is a reminder that for our family members with autism, self-regulation is key.
Publicist, Wintertickle Press