The indirect risk of Coronavirus…

Just because you agree with a decision, doesn’t mean you can’t be scared about it too.

By 7pm on Monday, McDonalds will close all its restaurants and drive thrus. Many people will have no clue why this terrifies me, but some of you will totally understand.

Social distancing is not new to our family. We’ve been doing it for years. A typical family’s day out to a theme park, zoo, leisure centre or cinema was the equivalent of our McDonalds Drive Thru. I’m sure people will be saying, “but we have had to give up our social activities? So why should you be allowed to keep yours?”. Here’s the thing when it comes to McDonalds for an autistic family:

1. It’s a food most autistic people will eat. It tastes EXACTLY the same every time, looks the same every time and is mostly beige and safe colours. It is quite genuinely life saving.

2. For many carers, it’s the only contact we have ever really known in the outside world with another adult, especially a neurotypical adult.

3. A trip to a drive thru is sensory regulating for many children, allowing their nervous systems to recalibrate and settle. This ends self harm, dangerous sensory seeking behaviour and hyperactive violence. Again, a trip to McDonalds can be genuinely life saving.

4. It was the last piece of routine many carers had for their children. Routine is a life saving necessity for so many autistic people to function. Remember, autism can be a huge disability and our family for one were reliant on Drive Thrus to help manage violence and maintain calm.

We can’t explain to kiddo what’s happening. The only communication we have had so far about Coronavirus is when he asked “park?” and I replied, “park is closed”. He was terrified and started head butting one of the safety gates. Yes we are all frightened, but I dont think many families with neurotypical children are dealing with violent behaviour as a result of this. Emotional and misbehaviour yes. But extreme violence directed towards you personally? I expect not.

This isn’t a woe is me post. This is about educating people on why some of us will now be genuinely frightened by the closure of McDonalds. Yes it needs to happen, no one is saying otherwise. We have to protect our most vulnerable. However, the group of vulnerable people at the hands of this virus just grew considerably, and it’s not because of the risk the virus poses to them.

There are now massive indirect risks of Coronavirus on many autistic families. Please respect and understand why those who have children without underlying medical issues may now be just as afraid as those with children who do.

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