New research released today reveals the true extent of isolation and loneliness experienced by people on the autistic spectrum and/or those with learning disabilities, due to COVID-19.
From not-for-profit support provider, Dimensions, people on the autistic spectrum and/or those with learning disabilities responded to a recent survey which uncovered ‘a collective sense of exclusion’, stating that 93% of respondents feel more isolated from society as a result of COVID-19, and 76% have been made to feel that they don’t matter, in comparison to other people.
A further 75% said they worried about the impact of the pandemic on their future opportunities, and almost all respondents (97%) said they felt the government should do more to understand how the pandemic has affected autistic people and/or those with learning disabilities, and address their specific needs.
Sarah Walters, Campaigns Manager at Dimensions says that this year needs to mark the start of drastic change for a more supportive and inclusive society.
“Our research highlights just how isolating the pandemic has been for people with learning disabilities and autism, with many worried that in the future, they won’t have the same opportunities they had before. Yet, many remain hopeful our society will evolve to be more inclusive. We cannot let them down.
“The pandemic needs to be a catalyst for change for us to do more to listen to and understand the lives of people with learning disabilities and autism.”
With these distressing figures, resilience and courage has prevailed. 67% of people responding to Dimensions’ survey said they were hopeful that reasonable adjustments for autistic people and/or those with learning disabilities will be made in the future, and 57% have been inspired to take ownership of decision making, and become involved with politics.
The determination and strength for change is incredibly inspiring considering the hardships this year, and many see 2020 as the turning point, calling on the government for a greater understanding of autism and learning disabilities.
Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List
The research revealed today coincides with the release of Dimensions’ Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List. In its third year, this special edition, national list recognises autistic people and/or those with learning disabilities, who are ‘challenging stereotypes and entrenched social prejudices’. The List celebrates individuals who have worked tirelessly to improve communities during the pandemic, challenging social prejudices and making for a more inclusive society.
In conjunction with Learning Disability England and VODG, the List focuses on the following areas, highlighting individuals who have overcome significant issues and disruptive changes in the pandemic:
- raising awareness and understanding
- isolation from society
- politics and the pandemic
- achievements over lockdown
Leaders in 2020
Molly Kirby, a 2020 Leader set up a local Friendship Group to support autistic people and/or those with learning disabilities who might be struggling with feeling shy and anxious around other people. Molly is autistic and recognised that the connection to others was imperative to wellbeing, and in the wake of the pandemic, began leading her groups via Zoom to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Aaron Senior who is autistic and was born with Kabuki Syndrome - a rare genetic disorder - works as a Lived Experience Advisor in NHS England. Lockdown was particularly difficult for Aaron, having to cope with self-isolation, and determined to change the situation of many others who were also shielding, Aaron now supports the NHS autism team in the development of accessible COVID-19 resources for people on the autistic spectrum and/or those with learning disabilities.
Concerned by the lack of accessible and accurate, easy-read resources produced on the pandemic for autistic people and/or those with learning disabilities, Becki Parker is autistic and dedicated her time in lockdown to producing daily videos and coronavirus bulletins to ensure all information was inclusive. Becki also campaigns this issue, fronting a video addressed to the Prime Minister, calling for accessible, inclusive guidance on the pandemic to be made.
Star of Coronation Street, winner of Dimensions’ 2019 Leaders’ List, celebrity ambassador and judge, Liam Bairstow reflects on the achievements of autistic people and/or those with learning disabilities, in 2020:
“The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the lives of everyone in ways that, only a few months ago, would be difficult to imagine. For many people with learning disabilities and autism, the pandemic has been a period of anxiety and uncertainty, as our daily routines changed beyond recognition.
“And yet, it has also been a time of people persevering, coming together and looking after each other. It’s wonderful that Dimensions' special Coronavirus Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List celebrates those stories of everyday strength and resilience in this extraordinary time.”
To see the full list of 2020 Leaders, share your story or nominate someone you know, head to Dimensions.
For more information about autism, or if you're struggling with isolation and loneliness, you can speak to a professional therapist via Counselling Directory.