As hard as things are at the moment for everyone, the goodness of others around us shines brighter than ever.
We spoke to some of our services specialising in autism support about how their local communities have made a positive difference to them during the current pandemic. They also tell us how they are adapting activities to conform to the Government’s request around social distancing.
Denise Howe, the Service Manager at Twyford House, told us how the local community have really stepped up to make things easier for their service.
She said: “We use our butchers every week, placing an order that we then collect. One of the people we support would always be involved in collecting under usual circumstances. I had a chat with the butcher and was told ‘you keep ordering and we will keep supplying’”.
Their local corner shop also told them that every morning they would get 16 pints of milk set aside for them. Denise said: “It is really important for this to be available for breakfast and hot drinks in the morning.” This has really helped keep the normality within the service every day – routine is very important for autistic people and they can struggle to understand changes.
Also, their local McDonalds also gave them 20 frozen burgers for an autistic person who visits every Saturday!
The support offered by shops and restaurants around Twyford House has really helped the autistic people at the service to adapt to the necessary changes to their routine.
The manager at Langley House, David Wright, told us about a recent birthday experience for someone we support called Nigel.
This happened before the closures of non-essential public places.
Nigel has recently celebrated his 54th birthday and went to Haines motor museum on the day.
David said: “This was a good day out for him and he had long been promised to go, so it was well worth a trip. Nigel told the person at reception that it was his birthday and was born at 4:15pm. At 4:15pm, the receptionist asked Nigel what time it was and Nigel asked ‘why are you asking?’ The receptionist then started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him, it was a great delight!”
Small actions like this really make a difference to autistic people.
So, how are autistic people adapting to social distancing?
At Twyford House, Denise said: “We are supporting on an individual basis and gently but firmly discouraging physical contact, some replacing handshakes and hugs with blowing a kiss and elbow / feet tapping! Making the best use of the wonderful weather and garden, art work and music.
Stacey Fritchely of Redcliffe House told us: “The people we support are also doing a lot of gardening and prepping for the summer for when we hope to hold our annual BBQ (fingers crossed!) and invite all of the families. This is giving the people we support a lot of reassurance and something to focus their attention on.”
Langley House are planning to run a snack shop so that it’s as if they were going to the shops, which is a big part of the people we support’s normal routine. They have also done more indoor activities, such as discos (just with people who already live together) and quizzes, ensuring everyone is safe and social distancing effectively.
It’s important to try to keep a routine, as much as possible, for autistic people, which is difficult at the moment. These services are showing that routines can still be followed indoors.
This will help to settle nerves and reduce challenging behaviours.