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Escape into Learning

In the United States, everything shut down in March. Support services, places to go, things to do. Routines and expectations have been taken away from us all.

Like most of us, I have been silenced by the change. This is an uncharted territory. We have been figuring out what to do with what little advice we have. People have shared experiments that have worked on social media. We have been scrambling to keep our minds and souls occupied so we do not succumb to stress. Everyone has been affected.

Everyone, including those who support people with autism.

I have autism, and I also support those with autism. I am a teacher of students on the spectrum and have adjusted to the new needs of my children AND their parents with the change to online learning. My students have been fortunate in that their needs could be somewhat met with learning. There has been a struggle with the limit in social interaction and change in routine.

Others on the spectrum have not been so lucky. Those who depend on supports have had them cut off during the lockdown. Parents have been stretched in trying to manage dependents while maintaining jobs.

My students have adapted to the stress and worry, whether it be theirs or their parents, by escaping more into video games and movies. Personally, I have had to support this. I have been doing it as well. I have found that binge-watching Netflix has given me the escape that I have needed to keep my mind from cycling. I would never let myself go like that, I tell myself. I feel shame in doing an activity that is considered a waste of time. However, it has served a purpose. It has freed my mind from cycling on worry and other unhelpful thoughts. When my mind has its break, I can stop and move on with duties.

 

Take on a solvable problem

My students have been working on The Sword and the Stone. There is a section where Merlyn teaches Wart (the future King Arthur) that learning is the key to overcome all states of sadness and despair. While this is a strong opinion, it is something that should be considered. As a teacher of students with autism, I have seen the joy in their faces as they find something to master. If you cannot solve a life problem, well, something to learn is a problem that can be easily mastered with work and practice. Math teachers love to joke around with the thought that Math is at least a place where you can have solvable problems.

Have faith. We will get through this. Nobody is normal right now because our world is not normal. That is okay. Take on a solvable problem. Pick up a book, watch a show on Netflix, garden, learn a new language, knock out some math problems – at least you can help your children this summer in preparing for next school year. Social interaction is still going to be limited during the phase openings, but we can overcome our mental states by escaping into educating our minds.

 

Mary Janca works as an educator for individuals with autism and their families.  She is on the autism spectrum and uses her own insight to connect with others and guide them to understanding autism in ways that trainings and literature may not reach.

She has been teaching college, high school, and middle school for over 20 years to students of all types of learning styles. She holds a master’s degree in Special Education: Emotional and Behavioral Disorders and has state certifications in multiple high school and middle school subjects. She has also been involved in many agencies as either a helper or receiver, including: ASNC, TEACCH, Vocational Rehabilitation, and specialized school environments. Her goal is to be able to help in as many settings as possible, because there is such a high need for educators.

Mary enjoys the quirks of having autism but appreciates being able to connect with others. She goes through many of the trials that most individuals on the spectrum face, including trouble with taking the perspective of others, following expected behaviors, and managing emotions. She hopes to keep learning about the field of autism, so that she can continue to reach out and help others.

 

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