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Coronavirus: Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone discusses changing routines for children with autism

How those with autism are handling the COVID-19 outbreak
The coronavirus pandemic has meant changed routines and limited access to services for those on the spectrum. Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone, who has teenagers of her own with autism, joins Global’s Laura Casella.

While the novel coronavirus pandemic and the social-distancing measures in place to combat it have upended the lives of virtually everyone on the planet in recent weeks, the situation has had a perhaps unusually stressful impact on those on the autism spectrum, many of whom rely upon daily routine and access to specialized services.

Liberal MNA Jennifer Maccarone, who has two teenage children on the autism spectrum, told Global News Morning that the current pandemic has meant major challenges for her family.

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“I think it’s going to be different for every family,” she told Global’s Laura Casella. “Certainly, for my family, it’s navigating a new routine. It’s a lot of changes, it’s a lot of questions, it’s a lot of ‘when is this pandemic going to be over, and why is this happening to us?'”

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The Westmount-Saint-Louis MNA said it’s also meant significant changes to the services her children are able to access, whether at school or other therapeutic services outside of the home.

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“All of that is on hold,” she said, adding that for that reason, “there is a lot of stress and anxiety surrounding this pandemic.”

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She said that even though many people on the spectrum are not as social as the average person, they are now finding themselves deprived of the social interaction they were used to on a day-to-day basis. Many caregivers, including Maccarone, have had to fill that gap for now.

“We’re trying to complement that,” she said, “and for my son, certainly, not being able to go to school, not being able to go to CEGEP, doing school at a distance and trying to keep up with classes, again, it’s a lot of additional pressure and a lot of work for me as a parent to try to accompany him.”

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First elected in 2018, Maccarone has been an outspoken advocate for those on the spectrum and people with other cognitive disabilities. However, she said that like all other parents, she cannot fill the role of a psychologist, speech pathologist or therapist for her children.

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Speaking on the current strict social-distancing measures that have been in place across Quebec for weeks, Maccarone said: “I am eager for a transition in what is considered emergency measures so that kids like mine will be able to get those essential services.”