Meet Liam Meade
Though these are challenging times for our community and so many others, we continue to share authentic stories of autistic Canadians and their families. We hope these will offer a look into the many diverse perspectives in our community and provide inspiring and uplifting stories when we need it most.
Meet Liam Meade, political science student with autism who shares his candid advice for other autistic persons who are struggling through this unpredictable and stressful Covid-19 pandemic.
As an autistic university student, the quarantine has been a double-edged sword. On one hand, I have been given a significant break in an otherwise stressful semester that will do wonders for my GPA and mental health. I can also spend more time at home and away from other people; I'm a recluse by nature and prefer the solitude of my home over anywhere else. On the other, my routine has been destroyed, and my traditional and historically successful work environment (i.e. the libraries of my university), has been made inaccessible for the rest of the semester. I therefore struggle with reality in quarantine as for me there exist significant positives and negatives making it impossible to quite determine whether or not this situation has been a net-positive or the antithesis.
As a second-year political science student, the amount of time I spend writing papers and reading various books and articles both for class and for recreation is generally significant. While this quarantine has made a subject that I find easy and captivating even easier as closed-book exams are now impossible or otherwise unfeasible, I also find it has made my job as a reasonably high-achieving student more difficult, as I have a specific headspace and corresponding routine that I simply lack when working from home. Remaining disciplined and not staying up until 5AM raiding on Destiny or speed running Resident Evil because I have three term papers due in a week and fast-approaching take-home exams to study for is difficult, as I am a person that requires structure and guidance to succeed. Such does not exist when I am not required to go through the effort of getting dressed, doing my hair, and taking a 60 minute commute to campus to be away from distractions such as video games and my lovely, cuddly albeit manipulative cat. I also have a distinct headspace when I am on campus that I just cannot have outside of campus. I am more focused, more disciplined, and thus, much more productive. Further, having a consistent routine significantly reduces my stress and allows me to live each day reasonably comfortably as I can generally predict the outcome of the day ahead. While my mother can assist in providing me some semblance of structure via verbal reminders to work and the like, this is by no means equivalent to the headspace and structure I had before quarantine.
Thus, setting personal goals and rigidly adhering to them without much external support is necessary. Today for example, I must go over lecture material so I can ace a take-home exam and give myself a significant grade boost. Tomorrow, I must get started on my last of three term papers. But this is further complicated by the fact that I am on the debate team, with three weekly practices spanning two hours each and an online tournament to attend via my computer for two days of university-level competitive debating. I am therefore keeping myself busy and being forced to balance school, debate, and my primary hobby: that being gaming, without substantial guidance.
One could therefore make the argument that such a situation has been net-positive for me as it is forcing me to act more independently and further outside my comfort zone than usual. And such an ability to adapt to change, while admittedly difficult and sometimes impossibly so for myself, is hugely important in this current job market. The latter being something I will need to eventually enter to be a fully functioning and independent citizen; something which I am perfectly capable of being.
In conclusion, I suppose this discussion of my current situation could involve a universal piece of advice for other autistic persons who are struggling through this unpredictable and stressful situation: take advantage of one's newly found situation and make it work as well as possible. Learn to be self-disciplined. Becoming better seldom happens without some degree of trouble. And few things will teach self-discipline like being autistic and being required to work outside one's general routine and preferred environment to pass the semester and excel.
Disclaimer: Information provided is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks Canada does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Rather, Autism Speaks Canada provides general information about autism as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Autism Speaks Canada has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties.