Life During the Pandemic for a Student on the Autism Spectrum

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Quote the Raven: Matthew

Matthew

Pandemic: adjective, (of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or part of the world. Noun, an outbreak of a pandemic disease. This word has become a common occurrence in our daily lives recently, answering the question “what if the zombie apocalypse was real minus the zombies?” We have each our own experiences with the global game of hide-and-seek: disease version, but there is one experience that you may not be so aware of, but is both of equal value and often untold or ignored: the Asperger experience of the lockdown/s.

For us Aspies, we enjoyed the early days. When told to stay at home, avoid non-essential travel, and not to socialize with anyone except those in the same living space as us, we thought that we were told to go on a mandatory stay-cation. Stay at home, socialize as little as possible and do nothing except read/watch movies/play video games? This was the next best thing to us besides winning the lottery! Why did we feel this way, you may ask? Because our experience with other people is often…coloured.

Often times, we are social outcasts. We are accused of lacking in empathy, but we just show it differently from NTs (Neurotypicals). We are accused of being violent, when often we are the victims of violence (ask Asperger/Autism Facebook sites for sources about Autistic/Asperger victims of violence). We are often thought of as cold, unthinking, uncaring people who are socially awkward and dangerous to be around. Of that, the only thing that is correct in that statement is that we are socially awkward. The reason for this is…well, have you ever heard the term a PC living in an Apple world?

We, the PCs, feel like we are living in an Apple social world. We do not always understand the social workings of human society, like eye contact, facial and physical expressions or even changes of tone. We are, to put it simply, people whose brains are wired in a different way from most others, and therefore understand things differently. We take in sensory information (sight, touch, smell, etc) often at the blink of an eye. For those of us with few friends, it was enjoyable to talk to them online, but as time dragged on, we began to crave our regular routines. Going to classes, face-to-face activities like boardgames or sports, things that we would do before it all came to a stop. We loved seeing the people in our immediate social bubble every day, enjoying the mandatory lazy days all day, every day. After a while though, we, like everyone else, began to metaphorically step on each others’ toes.

In time, those repetitive activities that we used to enjoy doing every day, i.e playing the same games repeatedly, became boring. With boredom came its ever-popular sibling, Stress. We began to worry about things we have said and did in the past. We worried about what might happen tomorrow, or the next day, or the day after that. We begin to forget about our ability to focus, and instead worry about the grander scheme of things. When faced with a forest, we look at the whole, rather than the individual trees within it. One part of that stressful forest is known as alienation. Though we can talk to our friends online, it is not the same as meeting them person-to-person, seeing them with our own eye’s, hearing them speak with our own ears, hoping for the day to come when we can shake their hands again.

In other words, our pandemic experience has been like a really, really short roller coaster: a short, month long climb up when the stress of having to blend (going chameleon) or as we call it, masking (before it was cool…or necessary) was gone. Then, after that grace period of peace and tranquility, came the drop down. Stress, alienation, boredom and cabin fever all started to dog pile on us, bringing our moods down with it. One thing’s for sure, I doubt I, nor anyone else Autistic or not, will want a copy of the ride pic when all of this is done.

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