Autism and Face Masks

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

Leading on from my recent post about autism and COVID-19, I’d like to focus in on the issue of face coverings and autism.

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With the debate raging in the media as to the true efficacy of face masks, there has been little discussion as to the impact that face coverings may have for autists. Face masks are not fun for anyone (except for maybe playing dress up), but for autists, they can pose a serious sensory challenge. Overheating, irritating materials against sensitive skin, the uncomfortable sensation of elastic bearing down on your ears, and last but not least, the feeling of suffocation from the mask pressing against your nose and mouth.

Thankfully in many countries such as Ireland, guidelines have been issued for people with sensory needs that do not require them to wear a face mask if they are unable to do so, however, if you can, it is recommended that you should. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen viral videos of anxious people berating those who do not wear face coverings, which can further compound anxieties for autists should they be targeted.Β  In these difficult times, whilst I know it can be hard not to judge people when they don’t wear a face mask in public spaces, try to spare a thought for autists. Autism is an invisible disability after all; when you don’t see a mask, consider what else you may not be seeing.

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It is also worth noting that face masks can create further issues for autists as they act as a communication barrier. As autists struggle to read nonverbal cues and facial expressions, wearing a face mask can make communicating all the more difficult- especially given struggles with eye contact. So don’t judge us too harshly if we completely misread social situations with greater frequency than normal πŸ˜‰

Interestingly, in my own experience, I have discovered that face masks have an unexpected advantage in that they have actually helped to suppress meltdowns and have kept me from getting overwhelmed! When you hyperventilate (as I often do during a meltdown), the carbon dioxide levels in your blood drop as you are over-breathing. This can also cause your oxygen levels to drop. The restrictive nature of the mask creates a seal around the face causing you to inhale more carbon dioxide when you hyperventilate which will help to re-balance your blood gas levels and calm you down- just like breathing into a paper bag.

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So ironically whilst the face mask may trigger a meltdown, it can equally help to offset one! πŸ˜‚

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! πŸ™‚

Have a nice weekend!

Aoife

Autism and COVID-19

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ˜€

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As I am writing to you this week from an Ireland on near total lock down, I’d like to talk to you about the COVID-19 pandemic and how this affects the autistic community. While many autists will be content in isolation, concerns over contracting the virus, disruption to routine and difficulty obtaining preferred foods due to panic shopping can make this time quite stressful.

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Here are some of my top tips for navigating the pandemic on the spectrum:

Try to remain calm– I know, easier said than done for the anxious and over-thinkers, but panicking will solve nothing, and will trigger meltdowns and shutdowns. If you’re struggling with your emotions surrounding the pandemic, try to write them down or talk about them with your family. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Stay positive- I know it’s hard to see the sun through all the cancellations (Eurovision and my recent non-holiday were particularly heavy blows for me), and the rising number of cases, but this shall pass. Try to see the positives of our situation- more time for family, new hobbies, a break from the office the environmental impact of restricted movements etc.

Know the facts– do not allow yourself to get distracted by fake news, this will only make things harder. If you must read about the virus, educate yourself using the official information released by the World Health Organization. Knowledge is power.

Turn off the news/take a break from social media– if you’re the kind of person who get’s easily weighed down by all the fake news and mass hysteria on our airwaves at the moment, just take a step back from the media. Limit and reduce your consumption- perhaps taking a break from social media might help to drown out the panicked buzzing all around you?

Keep busy– this is crucial for the easily bored autistic mind. Cabin fever comes on all too quickly when you’re not adequately entertained, so try to keep yourself occupied. Indulge your specialist interests and hobbies (why not even take up a new one?) take plenty of walks (if you can), sort out all of the items you’ve been procrastinating on your to-do list etc. Find a way to keep both body and mind distracted and the time will fly by!

And most importantly, stick to the following rules for preventing the spread of the virus:

 

 

I know it seems like the world is spinning out of control, but we need to do our best to stay calm to get through this time. We all have to do our bit to combat the virus- sacrificing our routines for a few weeks may seem difficult, but it’s the only way to lock this thing down and stop the spread.

Stay safe everyone! πŸ™‚

Aoife

Autism and Coping with Disappointment

Greetings Earthlings! πŸ™‚

As I was unable to travel on a much anticipated break to the north of Italy last week due to the coronavirus outbreak (just my luck!), the subject of disappointment has been weighing heavily on my mind.

coronavirus

Disappointments, whilst an unfortunate fact of life, are oftentimes more difficult for autists to cope with. As we feel emotions on a much greater scale than neurotypicals, naturally, we oftentimes find disappointments quite tough. Neurological impairments in emotional processing can make it difficult for an autist to wrap their head around the sinking feeling of disappointment which can trigger meltdowns and shutdowns depending on the level of disappointment.

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I’ve not always had the greatest experiences with disappointment in my own life. Growing up, something as simple as a friend cancelling plans, or missing an episode of CSI could bring me to tears; if it were something greater like a bad test result or not being chosen for a team, I could isolate myself for hours melting down as if it were the worst thing in the world.

Thankfully as I’ve grown older, it’s been a lot easier to navigate disappointments- I’ve been surprisingly calm about missing my holidays last week for example.

 

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Here are some of my top tips for coping with disappointment:

Write it out– when your mind is overwhelmed by your disappointment, I’ve found that verbalizing your feelings in writing can really help to relieve the pressure in your head.

Contextualize the situation– try to see the bigger picture through your disappointment. Will this matter in a few days, weeks or months? Things may feel like the end of the world after a disappointment, but as my mother always says- “it’s not cancer!”

Focus on the good-I know it seems obvious, but focusing on the positive side of things and the things that you have going for you can really help to pull you out of a funk and divert a potential meltdown.

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings! πŸ™‚

Enjoy the weekend!

Aoife

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