Covid-19 and autism: A mum’s perspective

Covid-19 has turned all our worlds upside down. It has separated families and led to loneliness, anxiety, and financial uncertainty. Many of us are at least able to understand the reasons why, and that ultimately, all which is hurting us now is for a greater good.

As a young woman with severe autism, Kate Simpsons' daughter Tess has no such understanding. Here's their story:

My daughter Tess

My daughter Tess graduated from Henshaws College a few years ago. It was her incredible experience and progress as a student there which lead her on, with a newfound confidence, to live independently in a fabulous assisted living home. And for me, to become a fundraiser for Henshaws charity.

As her family, we understand what Covid-19 could mean. Tess has complex medical needs and a highly compromised immune system. She also has a visual impairment. Whilst social isolation is imperative and takes a little of our fear away, for her, it is devastating.

All of her routines have disappeared, her swimming, her shopping trips, even her visits to McDonalds. This may not sound very important to most, but the pleasure and security which visiting the golden arches for chips and ketchup brings her, is truly immense.

At Henshaws I work with people who are experiencing the same things as Tess. Our guys rely absolutely on their social interactions, their regular lessons, their workshops at our Arts and Crafts centre and their visits to their local hubs and support groups. When you live with any disability such as autism or visual impairment you rely on the support of others, physically and emotionally. You also rely on the familiar, the safe, and all the routines which bring you experience, human contact and self-worth.

For now, we are lucky. Because we are self-isolating and working from home, we can bring Tess back for a weekly visit. Many people supported by our service are not so blessed. Many have families living far away who may also be elderly and self-isolating too. For so many of them, the world right now is an even darker and scarier place to be.

Where Tess lives, the staff have been amazing. Taking every possible precaution to keep our daughter and her peers safe, looked after and entertained.

Tess eating chips in the sun


I also know first-hand how hard the staff at Henshaws are working to do the same for the people they support. The public gates of our organisation may be locked, but behind closed doors there is so much going on. Staff are desperately trying to keep everyone supplied with the basics. Tinned food, cleaning products, yes even toilet rolls.

They are devising a myriad of activities from crafts to quizzes to sustain morale and provide much needed focus, and pleasure. They continue to nurture those with medical, physical and emotional needs. And all of this at a time when our relied upon sources of income are fast drying up and our fund-raising events have been cancelled.

Across the nation amazing people are doing this. Turning out every day, despite the risks, in order to protect and enhance the lives of those most vulnerable.

As a mum of a child with autism who truly understands their worth, and never more so than during these extraordinary times, I cannot thank them enough.

Alongside the rest of the staff, I will work my hardest until the time when all our gates are open, and everyone can once again access the vital, and life changing services which Henshaws provides.

And absolutely, there will be chips for Tess in the sunshine!

We can't do it without you

Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.

Donate now