In the daily Covid-19 briefing, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, recognised that lockdown was a particular challenge for autistic people. She reminded viewers that April was the month to raise awareness of autism, a nod to our own World Autism Awareness Week which took place between 30 March - 5 April. She acknowledged that autistic people have seen their regular routines interrupted, with schools and workplaces closing. The First Minister added that the inability to see friends and family was especially difficult, and advised people to seek support from the National Autistic Society - read more information about coronavirus and our handy top tips for autistic people and their families to deal with its impact.

The First Minister also commended our Northern Ireland Director, Shirelle Stewart, for bringing these issues to her attention. She shared Shirelle’s advice for autistic people and their families on how to cope with lockdown, by keeping a routine and recreating activities we enjoy at home, and highlighted the importance of keeping in touch with friends and family through email and phone.

She went on to remind us that these changes are temporary and paid thanks to autistic people and their carers for doing their bit.

President Macron also recorded a message to autistic people in France. He said:

“Since the confinement that started on March 16, your habits have changed and you may be a little lost. You used to go to work or study everyday somewhere, and overnight it was no longer possible. You used to see people you knew well for a long time who reassured you, and overnight you had to say goodbye to them, without knowing exactly when you could find them. You used to go out when you wanted to, and overnight you had to stay at home. You used to go in nature, places that were dear to you or soothed you and overnight, the park where you liked to go, the place to which you were so attached closed.

I know you only want one thing: to get your life back. So I want to speak to you extremely simply today. We have been trying for almost three years now to do the maximum for all our fellow citizens who live with autism on a daily basis, and I know that this period that we are going through, for you is particularly difficult.

For some of you, staying locked up at home is an ordeal. I know it. I know that it destabilises you very deeply and it sometimes causes anxiety to rise, an anxiety that you cannot contain and that is hard for you and for your loved ones.

If you feel a lot of sadness, if you are anxious, do not stay alone, we are there for you.

I also have a thought for all those who are called caregivers, your families, your loved ones, the associations that take care of you.I want to say thank you, thank you for all the work that is done, for your commitment. Thank you also when you are able to stay with your child, your loved one, the one you are accompanying, for all that you are doing right now. I know that many of you are also going through a difficult time.

All these changes are only temporary: you will find your former life, I promise you. You will find it, because this invisible enemy that is the virus, is not an invincible enemy, because all together, we will bring our stone, our contribution, we will manage to beat it, and it is this effort that I'm asking you right now. So I promise you that you will find your former life, I will tell you when it will be possible again.

Be strong and courageous and I think very hard of you. Thank you.

We are pushing for other UK leaders to recognise the challenges autistic people and families are facing.