COVID-19 Conversations: Raising a Son with Autism in the Bronx

Viviana, her two-year-old son, and her son’s father live in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. Their world was turned upside down when the pandemic hit New York and shut the city down. Both parents lost their jobs in cleaning services. Viviana tested positive for COVID-19, though thankfully she recovered. And her son, who has autism, has struggled to adapt to a new routine that lacks the services he was able to access before the shutdown.

How is your family doing?

Viviana: My son has autism. [Before the shutdown] he was getting speech therapy twice a week, occupational therapy twice a week, and he was getting ABA [applied behavior analysis] every single day… It was amazing. He didn’t scream or grunt when he wanted something. He would point, and he would use words… I noticed so much independence with him.

Since he’s been home, he’s regressed immensely… I can’t even give my son a kiss. I can’t give my son a hug. He’ll push me away. He’ll smack me in the face. He scratched my cornea, recently, a couple weeks ago. It’s horrible. He screams over everything. 
- Viviana

He has not been able to get much of his services. He’s doing therapy right now over video chat, and it’s not really doing as much as it should. He’s missing school. He’s missing daycare, and he’s missing the social life and social skills, and being on a routine, which is critical for children with autism. 

How is this all affecting you?

Viviana: It’s been so hard emotionally and physically draining in the home… It’s very, very stressful and overwhelming…. It’s incredibly depressing. I cry a lot. I cry maybe twice, three times a week, because you never know how long this is going to happen. 

What have you learned from this experience?

Viviana: During this pandemic, I feel like we all have our own ways of struggling, whether it’s struggling with health, or finances, or supplies for the home, or food. I feel like we all have a little bit of a struggle, if not more. I had got a self-reflection of what the pandemic has done for me, and how it’s made me into a stronger person. I want people to know that it cannot rain forever. The sun will rise again. The clouds are never going to be dark for the rest of your life. There’s always help if you look.

Story Type
long form written
New York
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