The Autistic Lockdown Bubble
Written by Evelyn Keyes, BSc.
Edited and additional materials by Gregory James Keyes, JP, PhD
GAINGLOW.co – Aquatic Keyes
Lockdown: What does it mean for us?
It is very hard to explain, everyone has another story to tell about lockdown, but we have one thing in common and that is the fact that things are extremely challenging at this moment in time.
We can discuss the situation between each other and via Social Media to an extent understand what is going on in the world looking at the Pandemic that has got us all in a grip. We can tell others how we feel, and what we expect or not expect but how is the situation for someone who has Autism?
People with Autism live in a bubble most of the time or in some cases all the time. Their sensory needs need looking after and their daily routines in everyday life are their lifelines. If any of these lifelines are taken away from them as it happens now in our Lockdown situation it makes life extremely difficult. Depression and Anxiety comes to the surface as everything they know goes out the window.
People with Autism often do not understand what is going on when things change so explanations about the world and what is happening will fall on deaf ears. Weeks or even months of indoor engagement can be devastating for someone with Autism.
What can we do to assist them in this difficult time?
In the years I have dealt with special populations like Autistic people I always see that going back to basics is the best. Try and implement the normal daily routines as much as possible.
- Make photo books about the routines outdoors like going to the park or swimming lessons, going to school, or playing with friends.
- Read books.
- Tell stories.
- Play music especially of their favorite music and PLEASE do FUN exercises.
*Sensory needs are more important than ever, due to confinement within a defined domain and need to be stimulated to release endorphins and ensure those feel good chemicals flow through the body and at the same time they will yours.
- Sometimes cooking a favorite dish so the smells go through the house.
- Play a favorite song so we can sing, clap or moving our bodies to it certainly helps.
- A soft animal or toy can come in handy to touch when things get difficult.
One of my clients even has some pool water from our Outback Salt Water Pool at the Keyes Oasis Retreat where he prior to the Pandemic, regularly attended for Swimming and Aquatic Exercise, ready for her son to smell if things get overwhelming by the fact he can’t go to the pool.
Strange? Maybe to some, but it certainly is a release mechanism and helps and that is all that matters.
In the pool, I normally do musical exercises with my clients young and not so young. I have titled them AIM’s (Aquatic Individual Movements).
We all know we can’t go to the pool at this current time and for many, we are unsure when this is possible, so I have suggested to some of my clients to do various movements at home in a simulated fashion.
I further encourage them to remind their children or those in care with Autism that this comes from ‘Evelyn or Greg’, or in your case, YOU as their Swim or Aqua Instructor or Therapist and a link of Commonality association and warmth is often then associated that the gift of these movements are coming from you, even though you may be separated and not actually present with them.
I have with ALL my clients had a picture taken with myself as has Greg and those with Autism and their Parents / Carers and encouraged them to have this on display when these various activities occur, so again a link of the visual nature occurs.
(Our dear friend and client Thomas. Photo’s published with permission)
If you haven’t had one previously taken, consider sending a gift picture of yourself in the Water Environment that they can relate to and send it via Cyber means to the Parent or Carer to be used in this method for the links of Influence methodology of Commonality and relationship.
These homebased moves, I call: “AIM to dance”, loosely based on an idea that I got when Greg and I recently became Certified with Louis van Amstel ‘La Blast’ (Dancing with the Stars) fame and 3 times World Ballroom Champion, who based his entire Line Dance, Fitness and Splash program on ballroom dancing. Dancing is for everyone, young old, fit or not so fit, male or female, but also for those with Autism, however the focus of simplicity in the teaching style must always be remembered and not allow it to become overwhelming.
One example is as follows:
I place in a straight line on the floor, 16 blocks in a bright red colour one shoulder width apart if room permits. This of course can be done outside if you have a yard or private open area. (Please remember: Colours normally stimulate positively with those on the Autism Spectrum. Those who it doesn’t the parent and/or Carer certainly will know and not use such).
We can teach the basics of the dance like: ‘The Merengue’ which the Dance originated out of the Dominican Republic in the 1800’s and often thought to come from the Caribbean.
This Dance is an ideal routine to begin with due to the simplicity in Movement pattern and simply a Reverse Pyramid Learning Curve in the teaching of such.
The Merengue Pattern of Side Steps with Arms is: 2 x 8, 2 x 4, 4 x 2 (8-8-4-4-2-2-2-2).
The Merengue Basic Turn 360 degrees: Right and then Left = 1 x 8 (8 x 8).
Draw or put down a removeable tape as a center line and place 8 Red blocks in a straight line either side of this center line with these blocks as each representing a step and simply you do the movement behind it.
8 steps right, 8 steps back to the center then 8 steps left following by 8 steps back to the center.
Once this works well, we can add 8 yellow blocks, 4 on each side of the center line and teach this.
Then we go to 4 green blocks, 2 on each side.
Last on blue blocks 1 on each side Repeat 2 times.
The start can be just stepping, hopping, jumps or slides whatever works. The person doing the dance can be by him or herself or hand in hand with mum/dad or a career. It can even be done sitting on a chair or in a wheelchair.
When the steps work ok, you can add some of his/her favorite music and away we go. It is fun, educational, and simple to count. You can even make it a line dance and use the 4 walls of the room or environment we are in.
I use ducks in the pool.
Yellow ducks are on Wall Number .1.
Pink Ducks are on wall Number .2.
Blue Ducks are on wall Number .3.
White Swans are on wall Number .4.
There are many things exercise wise we can come up with. Use your imagination or simply look at the social Media streams for the many hundreds of innovative and Fun ways you can try fun things at home whilst in these current trying conditions in isolation for so many of us. It gives us all a challenge to keep going and implementing new things.
Give it a go, hopefully we can assist a lot of those on the Autism Spectrum with something special to hold onto, within their safe bubble instead of seeing the bubble burst and their world being threatened, breaking down or shattered.
Yours in Advocacy of Autism and Aquatic Wellness for All
Evelyn Keyes, BSc
Gregory James Keyes, JP, PhD
Editor and additional written materials
(Global Aquatic Instructors Network – Global Lifestyle Organization Web)
Keyes Oasis Retreat
PO Box 77, 25-29 O’Connor Street,
Ultima, Victoria. 3544. Australia