Pandemic a tough test for autism

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Amelia Hawkins and her mother Amanda.
Camera IconAmelia Hawkins and her mother Amanda. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser

The COVID-19 crisis has caused major disruption to the everyday lives of West Australians — some more than others.

For those with autism, the disruption can be magnified, with the routines they thrive on thrown out the window.

Amanda Hawkins is the mother of seven-year-old Amelia, who has autism.

Mrs Hawkins has spoken about the difficulties families like hers are experiencing — and how they can support each other through the coming weeks and months.

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“Children with autism will vary how they think, but as the spectrum is so big for Amelia she always thinks outside of the box and it is black or white, no in between,” she said.

“Her mind is very busy ... and she has a special caring personality that thinks of others before herself. I limit what Amelia sees on TV as it gets too overwhelming and then her anxiety gets high, as she cannot help those that are sick and this makes her sad.”

One of the things that normally helps Amelia is spending time with her 91-year-old great-grandfather in the dementia section of Juniper Korumup, but with new restrictions she can no longer do that. A saving grace is a trip in the car to drop her great-grandfather some pictures and cards for him and his friends.

It is one way the family maintains a measure of the old routine, even if there is a variation.

“Our little girl is very sad as her routine is different and she cannot visit Grandad and his friends,” Mrs Hawkins said.

“So to make them happy she painted them a picture and made Easter cards.”

Mrs Hawkins is urging other parents of children with autism to join Autism Support Network Albany on Facebook, where families are supporting each other through the pandemic.

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