For all parents, the impact of Covid-19 on family life is challenging, but if you're a parent of a child with autism, the disruption to normality is especially difficult. At home in Hollystown in Dublin, mum of four Vivienne Doyle is still asking herself if all this is really happening.
Vivienne is trying to find the new normal for her four children, two of whom have Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - the oldest, Daniel (15), and youngest, Harrison (7). Their carefully honed routine, structured around the school day, has fallen apart, and Vivienne - the 1998 Miss Ireland - says they are struggling to cope with the massive changes in their lives.
"Daniel is the kindest fella; he loves school," says Vivienne. "It's hard to understand what's going on in his head right now. Everything happens slowly for Daniel - he isn't very vocal and he finds it hard to show emotions other than happy. If he's angry or cross or worried, it's very hard to gauge."
Social distancing is something most people are adjusting to, but Vivienne says it is more familiar for families who have a child with ASD.
"A lot of parents with special-needs children recognise that other children won't call to the door to ask their child out to play," she says.
Vivienne says that while they are lucky that Daniel is very outgoing, he's missing his friends from St Michael's School in Chapelizod and his grandmother, who comes to stay from her home in Galway most weekends.
"He goes to school on the bus every day and he loves it. He's saying he wants to go on the bus. This is early days; I'm not sure where we'll be in next week or two," she says. "Daniel would always come in the car with me to the shops. He's cocooned at home now and he's really going to miss being out and about.
"Harrison is completely different to Daniel. From the minute he gets out the door he wants to call for his friends. He's asking can he call for them all the time. I have to keep a close eye that he won't bolt out the door. He's very emotional this week - he's crying a lot more and he's getting very angry."
Harrison, who goes to Scoil Bhríde in Kilbride, thrives on his daily routine and loves being busy. While Vivienne's two middle children, Elizabeth (13 ) and Stephen (11), can work independently at their schoolwork, Harrison needs constant supervision, plus numerous sensory breaks to aid his concentration.
"He finds it very difficult to say on the path if someone is not beside him," says Vivienne.
"Stephen is a bright boy and he's reading as best as I can monitor him. He's coming on our walks, but so much of my energy and attention goes on Harrison. Elizabeth is very mature and she's getting her work done.
"It's trying to keep everything going. I have great plans but I don't think I've fully acknowledged what is going to be ahead of us for the next five or six months and what kind of demands I'm going to have to meet as parent."
Vivienne is worried that Daniel and Harrison will regress as a result of the break in routine. She just completed a series of sessions of occupational therapy with Harrison and is trying to keep that going but doesn't know where she will get the time.
Daniel had also just started occupational therapy as the teenage years had brought on different moods but that is gone. Vivienne herself was doing a parenting course which has also had to be abandoned for now.
While she says there is lots of stuff being posted on social media about what resources to use at home, for now she feels too overwhelmed by everything.
"I'm getting out for walks and trying to get through a day with all that entails. I have no routine right now. I'm not embarrassed to say that. I'll get to that but right now I'm just trying to keep the stress levels down."
Her regular run, which was the one thing in her life that gave her head space, is for the moment abandoned while she grapples with all the things that have to be done in a day.
"The way I would describe it is keeping the head above the waves right now," she says. "We were stressed enough. I'm always on a heightened state of alert with Harrison. I'm just taking this one step at a time."
Vivienne also has fears of getting sick herself. While her husband Kevin Quinn is on hand, she is still fearful of how this would impact on the children.
According to clinical psychologist Louise Higgins, who works with children with ASD and their families, this a particularly challenging time.
"For children on the spectrum, changes in their lives can be difficult. Children on the spectrum thrive on routine, and things are up in the air. What we recommend is for families to create a new routine and a new structure with an emphasis on things that stay the same," says Louise.
While she points out that much has changed, parents can provide comfort to children by ensuring things like morning and breakfast routines, snack times and bed times remain the same.
"Try as much as you can to structure the day and to break it into small activities. If your child was in pre-school, try and copy similar routines. I know that's not easy. When they go into playschool, they might have had play time or a structured activity…it's really about breaking the day into small chunks," says Louise.
She recommends building an activity that ensures children are moving their bodies into the day. This could be something as simple as running around the garden or getting to the park.
YouTube can be a friend to parents here too, she says, with lots of exercises they can do with their kids.
"Each day should have some structure but also include some down-time. If a child loves Lego, it's important to make sure they continue to do the fun stuff," she says.
"One of the things that can support children to understand changes is using visuals. Children on the spectrum are strong visual learners. Pictures or photos can really help explain things to them. If you were to think about structuring a new routine, parents could show this on a white-board or draw out the routine using pictures.
"This gives the child a way to understand what's going on and also reduces anxiety. Some parents may already use visuals. It's really like doing a timetable using pictures. It could be a picture of someone getting dressed and eating, for example.
"For some children, seeing a sequence of a whole day might be too much, so break it down into a visual for the morning, afternoon, and evening. This will reduce a child's anxiety if they can see what's happening and what's expected of them."
If parents do use pictures, Louise recommends taking the picture down or rubbing it off a white-board when the activity is finished. This helps them understand transitions and what's next. If you want to talk to your child about something like hand-washing, using what are called 'social stories' or simply stories with visual images is a good way to do it. Many of these are available online, says Louise.
She says it's really important that parents mind themselves at this time by making sure they are eating at regular times throughout the day, trying to ensure they get enough sleep and getting some exercise in each day.
"The big challenge for parents now they are home every day is connecting with others," she says.
"We are all being faced with social distancing but it could be very helpful to link in with autism support groups. There's lots of really good sharing of resources and helpful advice on websites like www.asiam.ie or the National Autism Society in the UK or reliable Facebook parent autism support groups.
"And while children can't go and see granny and grandad, parents could use Skype to stay connected."
If parents are anxious about getting sick or unwell, Louise points out that it's a good idea to plan ahead.
"If this happened, what could you do?" she says. "Do you have anyone else in the house to rely on? Are there things you can buy and have ready to prepare for this possibility? Sometimes it's about trying to have a plan in place."
* Clinical psychologist Louise Higgins recommends that parents eat well at regular intervals throughout the day and try to get in some daily exercise.
* While people can't go to therapy sessions or meet up with other parents, parents can link in with support groups online or tap into reputable online resources like www.asiam.com or the UK National Autistic Society.
* Creating social stories to explain Covid-19 to children or loved ones will help take some of the stress or anxiety out of the situation. The UK National Autistic Society has created a social story to explain the coronavirus.
* Louise says parents shouldn't put too much pressure on themselves; especially at a time when we're all anxious it's important to ensure that there are things in your day that are fun.
* For parents anxious about becoming unwell, put a plan in place for this.
Health & Living