Living and working with Autism during Covid-19 – Vickie’s story
This week (29th March to 4th April) is World Autism Awareness Week. One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum and there are an estimated 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK. During the Awareness Week last year we introduced you to Vickie Howd. Vickie has been a Housekeeper at St Oswald’s Hospice for eight years and was diagnosed autistic in 2017 when she was 44.
This year we caught up with Vickie to find out how she has found working at the Hospice throughout Covid-19 and how changes to everyday life have affected her
“The pandemic has obviously been very stressful for everyone but coping with such massive changes to everyday life and having Autism has been tough. I’ve continued to work on the Outpatient Unit at the Hospice throughout Covid-19 but there have been lots of changes to deal with.
“St Oswald’s has been incredible ensuring that guidelines are followed and measures are put in place to keep staff, volunteers, patients and families safe but I’ve found certain aspects of my role more stressful. Before I knew I was autistic I struggled with daily anxiety, panic attacks and depression both at work and in everyday life.
“Since being diagnosed, I understand myself better and now realise that my panic attacks were actually due to sensory overload, which led to meltdowns. All of my senses were in overdrive from the amount of people, movement, noise, bright lights and smells. Covid-19 has resulted in lots of changes including more signage everywhere you go, everyone having to socially distance, facemasks being worn, which makes it harder to understand what people are saying and all of this has been very overwhelming for me and caused sensory overload.
“I’m also really missing having contact with others, before Covid-19 I would often hug other members of staff, but we obviously can’t do this anymore.
“St Oswald’s have been so supportive since I was diagnosed and during the last 12 months this has continued. My Line Manager and the Staff and Volunteer Support Team have provided lots of emotional support to help me cope with Covid-19. They are always there if I need them.
“I’m not ashamed of being Autistic and openly talk about it to my colleagues. Some of the other staff and my line manager have even read books about the condition to learn more about it and how it affects me and others.”
“I’m extremely grateful to St Oswald’s for all of the support and adjustments they have made to enable me to continue to work and the support I’ve received during the pandemic. Only 16% of autistic people are in employment, being able to work means a lot to me and I see working throughout the pandemic as a huge achievement.”
Throughout the last 12 months our Housekeeping team have worked tirelessly to maintain the highest possible standards of hygiene and safety for our patients, families, staff and volunteers. A huge thank you to this vital team.
To find out more about Vickie’s story visit Letters to the Editor