The Coronavirus Pandemic: Zack’s Journey With Autism & Epilepsy
The Pandemic: Zack’s Story:
About The Author:
A Love of Routines:
During these times with the Coronavirus, I’ve been dealing with a lot. I can’t go shopping at any stores except for Publix and Wal-Mart, can’t go to the library, and I can’t go to the gym. These are all part of my normal routine. Thankfully, school had ended just before the stay at home order was enacted, so at least that finished up.
I’m a person who likes routine. I like a schedule and for my plans to be laid out in advance. I like to know each week what I’ll be doing that weekend. Spending time with friends and doing things together that we love is something I really look forward to. It’s a real challenge for me, even under normal circumstances, when what I have planned gets knocked off the track. Now, not only is my schedule off, and planning is literally impossible, but I can’t go out and do things with my friends and family. Yes, getting together on Zoom or for a Netflix Party is fun, but it’s just not the same as being with others, and it’s different and requires adjustment time.
It’s not easy for me to regulate my emotions. This has been something I have had to work on since middle school, and I’m still working on it today. This is even more important for me than average people with autism because I have seizure disorder as well, and getting overwhelmed can bring on seizures, so I have to be really careful about controlling how I respond to frustrating situations. I guess you could say that it’s my stress level that affects everything else.
Coping With The Coronavirus:
I’ve discovered a few things that I can do that help me when life seems to get too frustrating:
– Use self-regulation techniques that counselors taught me a long time ago like taking deep breathes, stretching, taking a walk around the block, etc.
– I try to get exercise a few times a week. I was doing this at the neighborhood park, until it closed. Now I run or walk and do some exercises at home.
– Make sure I get enough sleep each night. My body does best when I get about 8-9 hours of sleep a night.
– Get away from the computer by taking walks during the day to get some fresh air. Walking to Publix helps redirect my thoughts.
– Texting my friends and discussing things that we’d like to do when this is all over is helpful and encouraging.
– I have bird feeders in the backyard and caring for them, and watching as birds come to eat, helps me relax and refocus.
– I’m lucky because I love to work on film creation. AND I love to video record myself reading children’s books. The Broward Drowning Prevention Task Force has asked me to create a few videos highlighting May as Water Safety Awareness Month, so that’s been keeping me pretty busy. I’m currently working on two children’s books, and an autism awareness video on drowning. Projects definitely help keep my brain busy.
– Getting together with Different Brains staff is helpful as we plan the future productions.
While this is definitely a hard time for me and for others who see chaos as an enemy, I feel that with the right support systems, we can all come out of this Covid crisis stronger and more prepared for our future.
The best advice I can give is to not allow yourself to spend too much time watching the news and getting caught up in the negative conversations or reports, but rather to stay busy by helping others. Everybody can help someone. I edit videos for nonprofits. Some people can pick up groceries for a person who can’t leave their house, do yard work for a parent, connect online with friends who may be having a hard time or washing cars for family or neighbors. Spending time making a list of future plans that involve having fun, can be a great way to get your mind off of the stress of how things are different right now.
Story by: Zack
Interviewed on: April 30th, 2020
Julia Futo was born on August 5th, 1999, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She faced difficulties early on in life with trying to perform everyday tasks. Before she was five years old, she was diagnosed with two learning disabilities: Encephalopathy and developmental coordination disorder (DCD). She struggled in school for a long time, but that changed when she took journalism in high school and learned how to become an advocate. She is currently in college and hopes to help others find their voices.