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Life under lockdown as a mum to kids with autism

The disruption to normal routines is particularly challenging for children on the spectrum, former Miss Ireland Vivienne Doyle tells Kathy Donaghy

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Vivienne Doyle with her sons Harrison (7) and Daniel (15), who have autism. Picture: Arthur Carron.

Vivienne Doyle with her sons Harrison (7) and Daniel (15), who have autism. Picture: Arthur Carron.

Vivienne Doyle with her sons Harrison and Daniel Quinn at their home in Hollystown, Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron.

Vivienne Doyle with her sons Harrison and Daniel Quinn at their home in Hollystown, Dublin. Picture: Arthur Carron.

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Vivienne Doyle with her sons Harrison (7) and Daniel (15), who have autism. Picture: Arthur Carron.

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."