Coping Thru COVID: Autistic Adults and Isolation
“My mother mentored me in finding my voice to advocate for myself and for others…She’s the reason I am the person and the advocate I am today!”
Hi, my name is Jake Anthony. I am an advocate for persons with diverse-abilities.
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at four-years-old. At that time, there wasn’t a lot of support for people on the autism spectrum. For the first few years of school, I was expected to keep up with the other children or be left behind. After amazing parent-advocates (like my mother) fought for a few years, I was finally provided with a full-time EA (education assistant) and annual IEPs (Individual Education Plans) starting in grade three, until I graduated from high school in 2010.
My mother mentored me in finding my voice to advocate for myself and for others. Not long after I had graduated from college in 2013, my mother was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Instead of just waiting to die, she fought the disease like a warrior and continued to be a tireless advocate for me and so many others, up until the end.
Mom passed away in October 2018, but her spirit and guidance live on. She’s the reason I am the person and the advocate I am today! Just as I had promised Mom before she passed, I took the time to grieve, then continued with my advocacy. In December of that year, I was appointed to the Board of Directors of CLBC. In August 2020, I joined the AutismBC staff team as their Program Ambassador. My job is to create connections with the autism community and to advocate for us all.
“One inquiry that really stood out to me was from someone asking for advice on how they could best support their friend on the spectrum whose mental health was in serious decline.”
The Effects of COVID-19 on My Life:
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the life of individuals on the autism spectrum, like myself. The uncertainty of life during COVID-19, not knowing what lies ahead and huge changes to our way of living, has made coping with emotions difficult.
In addition to being on the autism spectrum, I struggle with an anxiety disorder and clinical depression. A lot of autistic adults also struggle with mental health conditions, so COVID has made it harder for us to cope.
Since the start of the pandemic, I have had many people reach out about their own experiences with mental health. One inquiry that really stood out to me was from someone asking for advice on how they could best support their friend on the spectrum whose mental health was in serious decline. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be out of the ordinary, judging by the number of requests AutismBC receives about similar matters.
A big part of my role as AutismBC’s Program Ambassador is connecting with other people on the autism spectrum, in order to engage them in sharing their journey and lived experiences.
A great example of that is AutismBC Goes, a series of (currently online) free events, in a safe, supportive environment where everyone is free to be themselves.
Having a place to go and people to connect with helps to reduce feelings of isolation that many autistic people are experiencing right now and creates a greater sense of belonging and community. I have been reaching out to my network to find topics of interest within the community to help build social connections for individuals who feel isolated, depressed, anxious, or simply bored with being stuck at home. These events have had a positive impact in my life and the lives of others because they make us feel less alone.
You can help connect the autism community right now by donating to the Coping Thru COVID Fund. The COPING THRU COVID FUND will go towards virtual programs that provide social connections, support mental health, as well as reduce isolation during this time of physical distancing to help autistic individuals and their families to not only survive, but thrive.
- A $20 donation can help an autistic youth take part in a virtual AutismBC Goes event.
- A $50 donation can help a parent or caregiver attend a Waiting for Assessment or Behaviour Support at Home workshop.
- A $100 donation can help an autistic youth to have free AutismBC Goes experiences for one year.
- A $250 donation can fund an AutismBC Virtual Coffee Meet-up for one year.
We are in this together, and together we’ll get through it.
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