In Lockdown with Autism

In Lockdown with Autism

Mental Health Week 2020: Life in lockdown

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. After weeks of lockdown, many families who deal with the daily struggle of mental health will by now be on the point of exhaustion, me included. In my role as mother, businesswoman, nurse, confidante and keyworker, I have to deal with all kinds of situations thrown at me day and night. I thought I’d share how I handle those experiences, and hopefully you will find my stories useful.

Jumping hurdles & ADHD

Like everyone, my son and I have been diligent about getting our exercise. But situations can change rapidly once we are outdoors, and I must always be ready for take-off, primed to act on the slightest mood-swing. We’ve been on walks where people have come too close to Ethan; very often I’ve had to give him constant prompts to move out of everyone’s way. There may be a two-metre rule, but Ethan prefers to walk on specific bits of the path.

  • What helps?

If Ethan wears one of his favourite “Autism” t-shirts, people get an instant signpost as to how and why he might be preferring to walk that route and existing in such a specific space.


Autism T shirts available 

Changes in routine & Autism

If the key to navigating time is in your routine and consistency of events, from seeing people to eating meals, then it’s very important that you know what happens next. Since lockdown has taken away our choices, changes to our daily structure and routine have been upsetting and confusing. The need for control is always intense, but lately that hasn’t been possible.

  • What helps?

Creating and presenting Ethan with as clear a schedule as possible, within our confines, has helped him to understand what might be about to happen next.


T-shirt by

Coping with mealtimes & OCD

Waiting for anything is the biggest challenge for Ethan, and it can drive his anxiety through the roof. He becomes agitated, shakes, fidgets and is unstable. Usually, meals are prepared before Ethan gets home from school, but during lockdown he has had to wait while I prepare his meals. That sets off his OCD, which is hard to cope with and observe. His coping strategies are obsessive and compulsive, and hard to regulate. Everything matters, from what’s on the menu to how the meal is served, if it’s hot enough, who is watching him eat, etc. It can be so severe that it puts him off eating altogether, and we are in anorexia mode.

  • What helps?

Getting Ethan involved in cooking is always a winner, partly because he enjoys meal preparation, but also because it’s a perfect way of distracting him and keeping him busy.


General sensitivity & anticipation anxiety

Something to keep him occupied? Ethan pretty much never settles down to relax and focus on activities, or watch his iPad independently. He shadows my every move and obsesses with the future. I move to change position: he jumps up. I pick up my water glass: he jumps up. The phone beeps: he jumps up. After 16 hours of this, I jump too (secondary anxiety).

  • What helps?

Sometimes nothing: we just have to let it pass.


Lack of sleep & Bipolar

After a long lockdown day, sleep is the only way we’ll survive the next day. But if I don’t manage my son’s anxiety and stabilise him enough during the day with all sorts of interventions, the night can go very wrong. He can’t self-regulate, so if adrenaline runs for too long in his body he hits a manic state and can’t sleep. If he doesn’t sleep, I don’t sleep.

  • What helps?

Making sure the situation never escalates as far as this.


Sometimes we may also need a chocolate to help :)



  • For more stories about life at #teamnono keep an eye on the site
  • For more details on Mental Health Week 2020, click here
  • For Autism T-shirts visit  

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