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Autism and COVID – Liam’s perspective

When COVID first hit, Liam Dow-Hall reflected on how this affected his world. Here are his observations!

The first time I heard about covid-19 I thought it wasn’t real. Within weeks, it started to take effect. First my 99-year-old grandmother had decided I shouldn’t visit her. Next, we decided that I shouldn’t take public transport. Then Autism West decided to cancel their social groups indefinitely. By Easter, the RAC thought it would be best for me to work from home. I got really annoyed because most of the things that I normally do, I couldn’t. I DECIDED TO BE ANNOYED FOR ABOUT SIX MONTHS.

Jackie and Cam from RAC helped me to set up on a laptop so I could work from home. Dad and I went to Officeworks to find a second screen, but the shelves were empty. It looked like computer equipment had become the new toilet paper. Finally, we were able to borrow one so I could have the same set up at home as I do at work.

We researched the best way for autistics to work from home. That is to have a regular routine, separate the work area to the recreation area and practise mindfulness. Mindfulness is when you train your mind to focus on what you are doing, whether it is working or day-dreaming or relaxing. Having a routine and a special workplace helps me to do that. I am set up on the dining table. It is actually a huge banquet table given to us by an old friend. It’s big enough to seat 14 people. We certainly will not be using it for that for a while.

In fact, I recently had my 30th birthday. No big parties like we’d planned. There were four of us, one in each corner of our big living room. Then my uncle arrived, and we made him stand outside. (Just joking, he was in the pantry).

I miss my friends at work. RAC have organised for me to have video chats with Jackie via TEAMS. I have also had a few parcels from work. First Easter eggs came, then a hands-free headset, then an ergonomic chair and a keyboard. It’s nice to have that contact.

My sister Siobhan had been working from home for the first few months. She had been teaching online. At first, I was sneaking around the house ensuring that I didn’t make any noise. I had never realised how much noise the garage door makes. I must remember to put some oil on it. Siobhan and I had to coordinate schedules so we can each do our work. It’s easier now because Siobhan has gone back to face-to-face for some of her work.

So much for work, what about play? To keep up with exercise I go on a rowing machine when I can. It was lucky that we got it before the virus happened. Gym equipment was so hard to get it was like the new hand sanitizer. We started to envy our dogs because they got to play with each other, and they didn’t have to worry about keeping a paws length apart from each other. We started to have Friday sing-alongs with our neighbours along the street. Everybody was sitting on their veranda or their front porch and sang from there. We had a competition with each other to write Covid-19 verses for We Are Australian.

By the 20th July Autism West started up again. I had really missed my friends from Autism West. I am now meeting with them two or three times a week and we hope to go out to activities again. Of course, we have to follow the COVID rules. All the normal things we were taught to do are upside down. Instead of greeting people when they deliver things, we keep away from them. We don’t shake hands and we don’t even hug our families. And it took so long to learn to do those things.

Siobhan says that the corona virus will be with us forever, like the flu. We have to figure out how to get back to normal and still be safe. When that happens, my Nan and I are going to have a combined one hundred and thirtieth birthday party! With all those candles, we might need a fire extinguisher for the party.

About Liam Dow-Hall:

Liam lives in Fremantle and is an Administration Assistant for RAC. Liam strives to try new things and lead an independent life.