Autism author Andrew Edwards

We’ve all been living through difficult times for the past month, but times of stress and uncertainty can be particularly tough for those with autism. So we wanted to get the thoughts of people on the autism spectrum, on how they’re coping through this crisis.

Thanks so much to author, speaker and autism champion, Andrew Edwards, for sharing his thoughts on maintaining a routine during lockdown and how a personal fitness regime has helped him over the past weeks…

Living with autism in lockdown

By Andrew Edwards

When the coronavirus was starting to take a hold on European society in early March, I was in total denial about the whole situation…

I kept regurgitating stats about annual UK flu deaths in a vain attempt to help myself cope as I saw my regular daily autistic routine and social life taken away, piece by piece, in the days leading up to 23rd March. It really would have been better for my autism to process if the lockdown came in straight away rather than the dithering that ensued in the first couple of weeks of spring.

When the lockdown was looming on Monday, 23rd March, as it had become inevitable that it would happen, as a family we took an inventory of what gym training equipment we had. This was to help me to have any semblance of a routine. We were blessed to find that we were/are one of the very fortunate ones. We have a barbell with 60kg in weights and a wall frame that myself and my sister Melanie can use to execute a great number of exercises and manoeuvres. In addition to this, we are fortunate to have a front garden to be able to undertake tough bodyweight exercises.

Nonetheless, I am still extremely fortunate to train all the time with the great equipment at home, with my sessions being programmed by my new strength and conditioning coach, Chris “Hibbo” Hibbert. I have still achieved Personal Bests on several exercises, such as ‘Toes to the Bar’ and ‘Pull Ups’. I have executed Olympic lifts and broken my 10km personal best by several minutes as well.

Hibbo’s carefully programmed sessions have helped me enormously. We have still developed a very good relationship built on trust and honesty. I am one of the very fortunate ones. I was reading that a British Olympic Sprinting hopeful has had to train in a car park due to the lockdown. This puts it all into perspective for me.

My sister Melanie Beckley also helps by taking me for a walk most days, although sometimes I am not the best of company. Most days we have a laugh walking near the countryside near our home, which we are lucky to have. She has been unwaveringly positive, which helps most of the time, yet realistic, honest and clear in her communication, especially the latter.

However, my mental health fluctuates badly at certain times, sometimes daily, as I sometimes can’t come to terms with this whole situation. Weekends are the worst as I would be playing cricket for Chirk Cricket Club Second Team in the Shropshire League throughout the spring and summer months on Saturdays. I would also be watching plenty of cricket on television and in person during the season. I also lack structure at weekends, even more than usual during the crisis, as I don’t train as much to rest up for the next week, even during lockdown.

I find everyone being in the same position as me more difficult, in a way, than if it was solely my issue. If it was solely mine and/or my family’s problem, we would be in control of decisions. We could alter the outcome of the situation in an attempt to solve it or make it better, whilst then moving onto the next aspect of our lives. Of course, this isn’t possible with a worldwide pandemic, which is totally out of our control.

Nonetheless, I still have a lot more to be thankful for than most. I can’t overemphasise this. At this awfully difficult time, we must take solace in whatever little positivity we can find and that is what I try to do, although it is far from easy, it will hopefully pass soon enough.