Over the last year, many of us struggled to find our way through lockdowns, social distancing and wearing masks.
We all found it hard. Autistic people and those with learning disabilities have also found it challenging. Some of the reasons behind these difficulties are not as they appear. Changes to routines, sudden alterations, paused services, relying on computers, not using cash anymore, plus not seeing people and being expected to know the right rule for the right situation has given many people anxiety on a scale that’s way over what neuro-typical people can comprehend.
Talkback has adapted its Come and Meet Each Other (CAMEO) service to support people through this time via a weekly online session with other members. For those who have joined, we have talked through the guidelines, challenged each other to complete small but significant tasks and as a result many people have been able to cope significantly better. For those who are unable to access Wi-Fi, we have set up a weekly phone call to each of our members. By checking in with them, we have been able to talk through any major worries as well as send them activities in the post.
Getting our members online
Through another project we have provided individuals with a tablet and encouraged people to explore them. We have been able to set people up with their own email address, which has meant that some people are now able to use the tablet for other important things like food delivery for those who find shopping too stressful. It has taken time, but the results speak for themselves.
Raising awareness about autism
Autism is still not recognised by people in the wider world and many people who are recognised as being autistic function at a very high level, even though elements of everyday tasks can become extraordinarily hard. For instance, when appointments are cancelled, this can throw an autistic person into anxiety, where their thinking can become very negative, and it can impact their whole day.
Through attending CAMEO, one of our members has secured some part-time work through this lockdown and two more are exploring voluntary work positions. Others are gradually making those steps towards independence from their family and others are connecting, sharing their ideas, and building friendships with each other.
Wellbeing is an important factor for everyone. For us at Talkback, our work is to continue exploring new ideas and develop these, with autistic people guiding us, raising awareness of autism across the local area and making sure that everyone within the CAMEO group has someone who they can connect with. Talkback’s values are to never assume, always to explore, and never give up on someone.