#12 - A Neuordiverse Perspective


As a person with autism, the lockdown has been pretty unbearable. It has been absolute terror for me knowing that things are so very different – from what I knew, and from what the world has been, and should be. The terror comes and goes, but, to be honest, it never lets up.


I was initially diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder as a child, due to my stringent reliance on and obsessive need for routine. Even as a baby, I had very ingrained patterns – according to my mum, I would cry and cry if things weren’t running to a particular schedule. However, I was experiencing a lot of other difficulties – such as extreme anxiety in some social situations, and feeling overwhelmed and panicked by loud noises, to the point where I’d stamp my foot and shriek involuntarily if a motorbike passed me in the street.


At 21, Mum took me to see a neuropsychologist who was, at the time, one of New Zealand’s leading experts on the autism spectrum. She had me do a whole lot of diagnostic tests for autism – and I ended up scoring 49 out of 50 for most of them. My first thought was, “Hallelujah, it all makes sense”. Like a lot of neurodiverse people, I manage my condition through routine. I find huge comfort in patterns and repetition. A massive part of my routine involves my gym: training, doing classes in a group environment, and connecting with the network of friends I have built. Exercise is like medicine for me – the best way to cope with my anxiety is to convert it into kinetic movement. If I don’t make it to the gym, I’ll go on a bush walk. I’m also someone who craves connection, so my routine often includes meeting up with close friends.


My routine is my anchor – it’s crucial for helping me feel safe. But, with the lockdown, many of the things that I rely on to stay well have been taken away, and I’ve been thrown right off balance. Doing yoga classes as an outlet, being part of a community, hugs from friends – I never realised until now what a privilege these were.


I’ve worked hard to modify my routine during the lockdown, and keep myself grounded. I play the piano and sing. I do a lot of housework – there’s something very cathartic about vacuuming. I’ve been doing body combat and balance classes online every morning – though I did panic when the internet went down last week, halfway through a yoga session.

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A big misconception about us “Aspies” is that we don’t feel empathy or compassion for others. But, in fact, we feel these emotions very strongly – on a global scale. Hearing about elderly people left to die in their beds, abandoned by their support workers, in Italy and Spain tears at my heartstrings. Every time I hear of someone dying of Covid-19 in New Zealand, I cry. I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks crying for our world. We Aspies do feel – we just don’t always know how to express it in a typical way.



This piece was written by freelance writer Erin Kavanagh-Hall for The Spinoff. We reached out and spoke with Erin about her piece. She currently does not have a website for her writing but will soon. We will share it when she does. ~

This piece is excellent not only for the quality of writing but also for the fact that Erin has explored the experience of people who are commonly ignored or misrepresented.

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You can read the account of five more stories Erin has recounted here https://thespinoff.co.nz/society/26-04-2020/a-different-headspace-being-neurodivergent-during-covid-19/

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If you are interested in learning more about autism spectrum disorders this is a wonderful resource https://www.autismawareness.com.au/resources-01/

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