It’s something we’ve all worried about. So what happened when her autistic teenage son caught COVID? One mama shares her story.
My 17-year-old autistic son with high support needs caught COVID at his causal job on New Year’s Eve.
Three days later he had symptoms, a cough, fever and sore throat. I put him to bed and amazingly he slept OK. My other son and partner were away camping. We agreed they would stay away until the isolation period was over. So it was just the two of us.
I spent the evening googling what to do if you get COVID. Then I rang my sister and asked her to bring more masks, kids Panadol, an oximeter (to check the oxygen levels in his blood) and lots of lemonade.
Fortunately, we had a RAT test in the cupboard, I waited until the next morning to test him. When I saw the positive result, I cried. It felt overwhelming and I was worried not only about his physical health but about his mental health, knowing how anxious he would be about having COVID.
That first day he was too tired to worry too much. He lay on the sofa. I monitored him often, his breathing was fine and his temperature wasn’t too bad.
I rang his GP to let them know he was COVID positive. He reminded me that because my son was vaccinated he had good protection against serious illness. He gave me good advice about calling for help if I was worried.
Obviously, I was concerned that I would also contract COVID. I had already had my booster but I was still worried. Lots of the advice said that the COVID positive person should stay in a separate room and to try not to share a bathroom. This was impossible, as it would be for most children and teenagers, especially those with disability. I spent all day, every day, in the same room as my son, often sitting next to each other as we watched Netflix.
COVID is airborne and I found it helpful to think about COVID like cigarette smoke in the air. I could protect myself by wearing a mask and by increasing air flow through the house. My son is also able to wear a mask, so we both masked up all day. I kept the front and back door open and left all the inside doors open. I also had a couple of pedestal electric fans going 24/7. I noticed how often I touched my mask during the day, so I tried to wash my hands a couple of times a day.
Thankfully, I didn’t catch COVID from my son. I think boosters, masks and air flow are incredibly important.
I received daily text messages from the Department of Health and calls from the COVID positive pathway. Luckily his symptoms were pretty mild. He was tired and had a low fever, but Panadol helped with the headache and sore throat. After four days he felt much better.
My son was sad and angry at having to miss the Melbourne Lego Expo, his favourite event of the year. We passed the time doing lots of Lego together. Phone calls from grandparents and neighbours dropping off ice cream also helped enormously.
Ultimately we got through it. He was noticeably more tired and grumpy the few days after his isolation ended. We kept things pretty low key and didn’t rush back into things.
Today my son is back at his casual job. He is proud of working at a greengrocer and being an essential worker. For me, I learnt to stay in the moment and watching TV and doing Lego together helped his anxiety and mine.
I now make sure we have good air flow all the time. You never know when a Support Worker or another family member could unknowingly bring COVID into your home. So we put up with the dog barking at people at the tram stop opposite our front door and we keep the doors open all day and fans going 24/7.