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What are the Lessons Learned in 2020 for Your Autism Family?
The crisis that is 2020 is now in the fourth quarter of the year. Many health professionals advise that we will likely be in and out of different levels of quarantine for months, or even years.
So it’s time to examine, how do you want your life to look on the other side? Start now to make that happen. This is not so much a “pause” but a phase – a phase that allows for rethinking and reinventing on a scale unlikely to happen again in the near future.
Looking back, what will you remember? Shopping more thoughtfully. Savoring take out meals on special occasions. Catching up with far flung friends on Zoom. Cozy. Concerned. Content. Conflicted. The fear and uneasiness will fade. Let’s hope the support of and caring for our fellow humans will not. Together, let’s form new thought pathways.
Some of this will be in your Facebook memories. The rare drives, and the drop in gas prices. The grocery lines. The sewing of masks. But much will not be captured in still images and snippets of text. There is no way to capture the uncertain calm. The eerie distillation of our society down to its barest parts. There is ingenuity that will come from this. Indeed innovation that is already taking hold as we navigate the duality of acquiring essentials and taking much else online.
The realities of our autism family’s experience may not be identical to yours, but chances are there is some overlap. Thinking about and processing our lives during these complex and uncertain times can help make them more manageable.
Lessons Learned in 2020: What is the same
Your radius was already small.
Before you may have been limited by the likelihood of a meltdown, or the need for a certain food, but your family had still learned to make life work in this smaller radius.
You can only control what you can control.
You learned to not sweat the small stuff – whatever that is in your family – and focus on what can be controlled. In many cases, this involves schedules, and other environmental supports that you can design and maintain within your own home – regardless of quarantine status of the larger community.
You were already getting everything delivered.
You learned to not risk a meltdown in line at the grocery store or pharmacy – now those habits are not only more manageable for your family, but also reduce contact with others who may be ill.
You were already preparing a routine set of foods for your family.
Chances are you had food favorites- or maybe even non-negotiables – that you had already stockpiled. Your tried-and-true standbys became a rock of stability even as our world shifted underfoot.
Lessons Learned in 2020: What is different
One of the hardest things is knowing you shouldn’t leave, rather than actually staying home. You are probably learning more and more that the reduced physical health risks that come with staying in can be paired with higher mental health risks. Managing these challenges is a process that takes investment.
You are now competing for delivery spots with the rest of your community.
You are now not alone maneuvering for delivery time slots for groceries and other essentials. And some of those essentials are still difficult to find.
You are having difficulty finding time alone in this time of family togetherness.
You used to find windows of time to be alone while driving to work, or while everyone was at an activity, but the new now means you have to be even more creative. You can try getting up early, or staying up later than the rest of your family.
You cannot host anything in person.
Therefore, you can’t create manageable social situations for your child. You are at the mercy of whatever social structures can be created via Zoom or Google Meet. And “life skills” outings to the store or the playground are no longer simple – the precautions can make them prohibitive.
You have to figure out to cut hair.
Or face an epic haircut battle while trying to keep a mask on everyone involved. You watch some YouTube videos and buy some gadgets on Amazon, and pray to the hair gods that you don’t destroy your family’s hair.
Lessons Learned in 2020: What is better
You can connect with so many people who you may have lost touch with over the years.
This pause has affected the global community. You can connect with far-flung friends and family via video chat with greater ease than you likely could before.
You have a more fluid schedule.
There are fewer transitions, and no alarm clocks which is good for the entire family. Everyone can live more or less with their body rhythms. And transitions can be eased into (or muted!) rather than be dictated by bells or timers.
You don’t have to pack lunches – and you are eating more home-cooked food.
Yes, even you can make sourdough. Your grazers can graze, your gorgers can gorge, and you can provide healthier options for everyone.
You can work out remotely.
You have access to amazing fitness instructors through Youtube, Zoom and Instagram- including many offering free classes during the quarantine. You can offset some of the “quaran-ten” or “covid nineteen” with at-home fitness, on your timetable.
You can have fine dining at home.
You can get takeout from restaurants that may not make it on your once a year out-of the-house date rotation – and have date night at home. You may find that white table cloth food on your kitchen or patio table is just what you need to perk up your week (or year!).
You have the freedom of knowing telehealth can help you travel in the future.
You can plan future travels, knowing that trusted therapists can – and will – appear on your iPad to provide support and insight in new locations.
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