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OPINION: Plans to be made as things start to look up on the crisis that has dominated our lives for more than a year

By Karen Anderson

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A walk to The Kelpies is something to look forward to. Picture: Hector Mackenzie
A walk to The Kelpies is something to look forward to. Picture: Hector Mackenzie

Things are definitely looking up a bit now. As I scribble tonight, we have heard that shops, gyms and all our ‘non-essential’ favourites that pre-pandemic would have seemed very essential indeed, are about to be flung open to crowds of shoppers starved from the experience of touching stuff before buying it.

For us, the great step forward is going to be few nights away over the May bank holiday weekend in Falkirk where I will reconnect with my favourite walking destination – the Kelpies. But the prime purpose is to get our boy out of the house for the first time since Christmas and meet safely with his friend who lives there.

I am a bit sad about how Covid has stolen the last 18 months from our son. University had always been on the cards and his results at school meant he got an unconditional offer, but a combination of some unfortunate experiences in 6th year supposedly learning how to study independently – reality being unsupported in his studying to the detriment of his mental strength – and the effects of having been locked down for months meant it just didn’t work out for him.

He quickly became overwhelmed with the work and the planning that was needed to prioritise and complete tasks, things that are often difficult for autistic people. It was not possible for him to continue without significant support which wasn’t available with the university being closed and all online. From the first day of his induction to when he left his course was five days. I doubt anyone could have intervened in a way that would have turned it around in that timescale.

But we can’t get stuck in what might have been as that benefits nobody, least of all him. It is difficult just now though to think of what we can encourage him to engage with as an alternative as we suspect he has been somewhat traumatised and will probably not want to try again even though it is quite likely that he could get back onto the course he had planned to do, or an alternative science or maths degree. Just now, we allow him to spend his time as most young adults do these days, engaging with the world through his computer, playing online games and watching YouTube videos.

One thing I am sure of though is that there will be a niche for him somewhere and this dreadful situation we have all lived through will ultimately not hold him back as everyone his age will have been affected in one way or another. Future employers will have to accept gaps in someone’s progress in 2020 and 2021 and not need any further explanation other than the word Covid.

All we have to do is keep things as calm and predictable as possible so that his life proceeds in a manner he can cope with while we help him to regroup and picture a future that will fulfil him and have some joy as well as paying his bills, and a way to get there. Like thousands of other carers out there whose lives have been impacted both for themselves, and the people they care for, we are holding on by the skin of our teeth and looking forward to better times ahead – hopefully!

Karen is Mum to an autistic teenager and campaigns for the rights of unpaid carers to be supported in their caring role and involved in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of the people they care for. You can find her on twitter @Karen4Carers.

The simple daily nod that can mean so much

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