Coronavirus: Music, community service help Mississauga man with autism cope during pandemic

Click to play video: 'Community service helps Mississauga musician with autism during COVID-19 pandemic' Community service helps Mississauga musician with autism during COVID-19 pandemic
WATCH ABOVE: The pandemic has presented challenges for so many. For families of those living with autism, the uncertainty and lack of routine can be especially difficult. Here’s Caryn Lieberman with the story of how one man overcame the anxiety caused by COVID-19, with the help of a community service – Dec 29, 2020

Music can be a powerful tool for self-expression.

For 28-year-old Ron Adea, living with autism spectrum disorder, it’s been a lifeline.

“I like music… Music is my way of expressing myself,” he said.

Ron is used to performing for large audiences.

He taught himself how to play the piano at the age of seven, his parents explained proudly.

Read more: How those with autism are handling the COVID-19 outbreak

“Just by looking at the display, he was able to play the classical medley by himself,” said his mother, Lucy Adea.

When the pandemic started, Ron began feeling overwhelmed.

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“He doesn’t want to get out, he doesn’t want to go to church, he doesn’t want to go anywhere,” remembered Romeo Adea, Ron’s father.

“He was asking what’s going on… what’s happening and then seeing it’s the whole world on lockdown and quarantine and he really got so nervous,” added Ron’s mother.

Click to play video: 'Minecraft group helping children with autism build social skills' Minecraft group helping children with autism build social skills
Minecraft group helping children with autism build social skills – Oct 14, 2020

Afraid to leave the home, anxiety kept Ron from performing in public spaces, and his usual venues had been shut down due to COVID-19.

“Every night he’s been asking when is it going to end, when is it going to stop,” said Lucy.

Senior behaviour therapist Michelle Burns with Peel Behavioural Services, provided through Trillium Health Partners, explained the pandemic has been especially challenging for her clients.

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“Not being able to get out, not being able to have access to Special Olympics, after-school activities, weekend activities,” she said.

Read more: People with disabilities, autism carry a heavier pandemic burden, advocates say

Burns and her team worked with Ron virtually to help him find the right techniques to overcome some of the fears he was facing.

“When he’s upset, he figures out how he’s going to adapt to the situation with the COVID, we’ve used … workbooks and handouts about anxiety … We’ve done a lot of relaxation training,” she added.

While the emphasis is on keeping everyone safe, Burns said it is as important as ever that individuals like Ron are still able to access the help they need.

While Ron has not been able to play Christmas carols in the community this holiday season, he planned to share his love of music with his parents at home.

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