Clare Haughey MSP joined an online social group organised by National Autistic Society Scotland to hear about COVID-19's impact.
The Minister for Mental Health (who in addition has responsibility for autism and learning disability) joined an online group of autistic adults and carers on July 2nd to hear about their experiences of lockdown.
National Autistic Society Scotland report that the disruption of daily life and routine resulting from the pandemic and the lockdown has been very challenging for autistic people, 70% of whom are struggling with mental health difficulties and often intense anxiety.
Research by the organisation has also shown that two thirds of autistic people in Scotland feel socially isolated and this was before social distancing was introduced in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Scottish Government has recognised the fact that many autistic adults and families with autistic children are extremely vulnerable at this time and awarded the charity funds to provide specialist and moderated online social groups to reach as many autistic people carers and families as possible.
The online social groups allow staff to share information on staying safe and healthy as well as helping those with mental health needs and anxieties.
In addition, they also offer a safe and secure place where autistic people can connect and talk about whatever is important to them. There are specific groups focused on film & TV, gaming, craft, LEGO, politics, quizzes as well as for groups for young people, older people, carers, women as well as people from the LGBT+ community.
They’re a great way for people to build confidence, make friends and help with communication skills.
Minister for Mental Health, Clare Haughey MSP said:
“We know that autistic people find the huge changes in their daily lives more difficult to deal with than many other people. That’s why we provided funding to the National Autistic Society Scotland to provide these vital online services for as many people as possible.
“Taking part in one of the Society’s online social groups today was a great opportunity to hear directly from autistic people and their families on how the lockdown restrictions have affected them. Through our national strategy, we will continue our work to improve the lives of people with autism and ensure everyone gets the care and support they need.
Nick Ward, Director, National Autistic Society Scotland said:
“We were delighted that the Minister could join one of our online groups to hear directly from autistic people and as to the challenges they face at this difficult time.
Many autistic people are feeling the effects of the dramatic changes in their lives from pandemic and in many cases struggle with mental health difficulties or are very isolated within their communities.
Our online Social Groups, offer a safe a secure space where people can meet and talk about the things that are important to them, form meaningful relationships and feel more connected.
Our staff will also be on hand to offer support and tips around managing mental health and well-being and importantly staying safe. ”
Blair Spence who is autistic and from Glasgow said:
“I’ve been going to the Social Groups for about 9 months, they’ve really helped my confidence and conversation skills as well as make new friends.
The new online groups have been really fun. There are about 10 of us in the group and it works really well. It’s good to stay in touch with other people and we’ve done some exciting things with the group leaders like a virtual tour of an Aquarium and around San Francisco including going across the Golden Gate Bridge!
I really look forward to the weekly online groups and I would recommend to other autistic people to give them a go.”