As we write this in August 2020, Coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to affect our lives, and while restrictions are now easing, it’s difficult to keep up with the pace of change. Everyone will have different feelings about leaving lockdown, and that is totally normal.

At I AM we took this time to do a complete review of our services and decided not to rush into reopening them, but to take time to ensure that our staff and those attending our services are safe.

As a priority, we’ve adapted our building to fit with 2 metre social distancing rules. How it will work is that when attending an activity at our Stretford site, you’ll sign in as usual on arrival and be encouraged to clean your hands, while face masks are also available.

Our team has put clear markings in the corridors and rooms, and also on the floors and seating to ensure the social distancing is possible, while hand sanitising gel is available throughout the building.

If you don’t feel you can make it to our Stretford site just yet or to one of our outdoor meetings, we’re also holding regular Zoom meetings so please do keep in contact with our team and checking our Facebook page to find out dates and times.

We do understand that returning to our events after staying at home, having to change your routines in the process, may feel daunting at first, so if this is the case, please contact one of our team for support, and we will try to help.

On this page, you will find some useful links to tips and ideas as restrictions continue to ease.


Managing feelings about lockdown easing


Working from home

The National Autistic Society has put together this great guide:


What is Zoom and Zoom Etiquette

Zoom is a video calling service where lots of people can talk together other on a screen. You may have spoken to friends or family over FaceTime or WhatsApp before; this is similar but Zoom allows more people to join if they want to.

You don’t need to have a Zoom account to attend a meeting on there. For example, if you wish to join one of ours, we can send you a meeting link and password. When you’ve clicked on the link and entered the password, you will be asked to type in your name. When the meeting starts, you can choose to make your audio and video live, or just listen or watch if you’d feel more comfortable that way.


Do I need to wear a face mask?

From the 15th June, the government advised that face masks must be worn whilst travelling on any public transport.

Since the 24th of July it is also mandatory to wear a facemask in shops and supermarkets in England.

Any type of face covering that protects the nose and mouth is sufficient. People who fail to comply with the new rules face a fine of up to £100, but this will be reduced to £50 if people pay within 14 days.


Who is exempt?

If you are diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Condition (or ASD, Aspergers) you DO NOT have to wear a face mask IF you are unable to. However, it is strongly advised that you wear one if you can.

In England, the UK Government lists the following factors as legitimate reasons for not wearing a face covering:

  • you are a child under the age of 11
  • you are unable to put on, wear or remove a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or impairment, or disability
  • putting on, wearing or removing a face covering will cause you severe distress
  • you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate
  • to avoid harm or injury, or the risk of harm or injury, to yourself or others
  • to avoid injury, or to escape a risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you
  • to eat or drink, but only if you need to
  • to take medication
  • a police officer or other official requests you remove your face covering

Additionally, it includes situations where it is appropriate to remove your mask while in a location where their use is usually mandatory:

  • if asked to do so by shop staff for the purpose of age identification
  • if speaking with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound. Some may ask you, either verbally or in writing, to remove a covering to help with communication


How to wear a mask?

Covid 19 challenges and Top tips

Your plan and routine have changed

So make a new one. If you are still self-isolating, create a routine and stick with it, build in points in the day for exercise, eating and fun activities. If you want to start getting out more, take one step at a time. Take a walk, or ask someone in your household or bubble to accompany you shopping for the first time.


Sensory sensitivity – Your sensory environment has changed

That could be because work or your normal support service might not be available. Think about your usual environment- can you recreate that? If you are studying what did you need on your desk at school or college to help you concentrate and feel calm? Duplicate that at home.


Time to process information – Lots of information is coming very fast and it’s changing every day

Give yourself time to absorb and process each piece of news and make sure you have a reliable source to go back to and re-read when you need to.


Social Anxiety – If you’re socially isolating, this might not be a problem

If you’re stuck at home with people you usually don’t spend that much time with you might need to let them know that you require distance and your own time.


Communication – If you’re finding communication difficult right now

Let people know that at times of stress you might find communication, especially verbal communication, harder than usual. Many people are using services such as Zoom to catch up with friends. You can still join in and just listen. You don’t even have to show your face – show a picture of your favourite place and keep yourself on mute. (See our tips on Zoom etiquette)


Face masks- They may make you too uncomfortable, anxious or create sensory issues

If you have an ASC diagnosis then the Government has stated you do not have to wear a mask. The choice is yours – you may feel that you really want to anyway to feel safe. There is no pressure either way. If anyone does stop you to question this, there is no official document, however the charity Hidden Disabilities has created a face mask exemption card for anyone with the right requirements to be exempt from the law. This card simply indicates that you have a hidden disability, illness or impairment and have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face-covering.

The card only costs 55p, but could be crucial for anyone going into shops and stores facing staff who will be told to check that members of public are wearing their masks.


Top tips:

Remember – plans change, and you can always make new ones.

If you’re feeling isolated and struggling to make those first steps out to socialise, please contact us and you could join one of our Zoom meetings as a first step.

Agree how you will communicate with friends and family– via text, or in writing, or at specific times of the day, to give you time to yourself.

Think about where you’re getting information from – news on social media has a tendency to disappear from your feed or timeline, or even be fake news. Try to get your information from more stable sources like the BBC or directly from the Government.

Here’s a tour of our I AM Autism premises (formerly known as ASGMA) at 1114, Chester Road, Stretford, Greater Manchester. Here, you can meet some of our wonderful staff, and also see what we’ve done to make your visit safe and enjoyable.