My COVID Story: Jack

Disruption in routine, loss of friends were struggles for young student Jack is 12. This story is told by Susan, […]

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Disruption in routine, loss of friends were struggles for young student

Jack is 12. This story is told by Susan, his mother. Their family lives in Anoka County.

Jack is on the autism spectrum. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression are among his other life challenges. 

We have other children but none with disabilities. Jack’s diagnosis has been a learning experience for us. 

Jack has always had an individualized education program or IEP.  That has been helpful for us but nothing prepared us for the pandemic. 

Our entire family has had COVID-19 twice. While Jack did not have the worst symptoms, he doesn’t like to get sick. He dislikes wearing masks and very grudgingly gets his vaccines and boosters. 

When the pandemic started more than four years ago, Jack was in third grade. He was doing OK until we went to full-time online learning. That was extremely hard for him. He missed his friends, his teachers and especially the paraprofessionals at his school. He didn’t like sitting in front of a monitor and felt as if he was too close to others. He remarked more than once that he didn’t like being in other peoples’ faces. 

Everyone was happy when we went back to in-person learning. However, we were worried that Jack had fallen behind. We’d had changes at our school with staffing and that also caused issues, as did the fact that some of Jack’s friends were at other schools. He was not ready for so many changes. Losing that familiar place was a big, big deal. 

Middle school has been hard because . . . well, middle school is hard. Kids are often mean and bully Jack. 

We tried home schooling for a time but Jack missed the ability to learn and socialize with other children. He would also question why his sisters and brothers were going to school and he was staying home. 

We ended up switching schools within our school district before Jack moved on to middle school. 

We’re fortunate in that the schools Jack has attended take his IEP seriously and have been responsive to his needs. We know all too well that not every school is like that. 
What also helped us as parents was to find online support groups, and be able to talk to parents about the pandemic and how to respond. 

As parents, we had to do a lot of planning to talk about how to talk to Jack. Social stories helped a lot when he was younger. 

It also helped to just listen to Jack and hear his issues. Children and young adults with autism sometimes have trouble dealing with changes or disruptions in a daily routine. Losing the flow of school days was a big part of that for him. He missed his pre-pandemic routine of getting ready for school and then his after-school tasks. 

We talked a lot about how things just weren’t fair and how we needed to keep from getting sick. I think that helped him. 

Many resources are out there for families like Jack’s, through advocacy groups and national organizations. One useful resource Jack’s mother likes is the Child Mind Institute, at  childmind.org.

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