Mother and Daughter, Following Pandemic Rules Better Than Others


July 23rd, 2020

OMAHA – The arrows on the floor at the supermarket aisle is one of the new social distance guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This system keeps shoppers flowing in the same direction to avoid crowds.

This system plays an important role for people who survive based on daily routines. When any system like that changes, some people are harshly affected.

“I’m ASD level one so my needs are not so high”

ASD stands for autism spectrum disorder and there are three levels of dominance.

“They are meant to describe your needs to help others to assess how much help you need.”

Janine Brookes, diagnosed with ASD at the age of 48, about 10 years after her daughter Allye, diagnosed at the age of 18, now 33.

“My daughter is ASD level three, which means that she has a lot of care needs she needs to have someone helping, supervising her throughout the day, has to attend the day programs, she more structure on her life.”

Brooks used to buy her groceries online, when the pandemic hit, deliveries were taking longer, so she had to go into the supermarket. She knew of the importance of following the arrows on the floor and wearing a mask.

“Autistic people tend to obey the rules to the best they can, but it was really troubling to watch other people running around not wearing the mask, not following the signs.”

Morgan, Janine’s service dog

Back in 2017, Brooks’ house was lost in a fire, she moved in with her parents, but for Allye the best option was to go to an extended family home in Lincoln. One year later Brooks graduated from UNO with a master’s degree in English. She is working at UNO managing the chemistry department and every day she has the help of Morgan, her service dog.

“It was a lot of confusion up here at work for me, because I didn’t fully understand things. There were a lot of changes that were happening fast. So, it caused a lot of anxiety for me to where I was not sleeping well at night and I couldn’t see my daughter.”

Brooks and her daughter have some health problems, which put them at a higher risk of COVID-19. In March she was not able to visit Alley anymore.

“She wasn’t fully understanding what it meant so she will call and she will say, mom, are you coming in today? and I will tell her no Allye can’t come up because of the pandemic.”

Allye, at a Miss Amazing Pageant

Alley worked at McDonald’s in the dining room, with no customers in the restaurant, she was out of a job. Most of her daily activities were canceled and she had a hard time understanding the pandemic effects because her system of doing things every day, had been altered. Her communication problem intensifies when she has anxiety, some days she can’t explain if she is suffering pain or other problem.

Janine Brooks raises chickens and attends Chicken Shows in Oklahoma

Brooks had been traveling to Oklahoma every year for a chicken shows. she also spent her time on meetings with other people with ASD and she enjoyed her book reading club.

With the pandemic, she stopped seeing her friends because some of them are not able to manage Zoom.

“Others don’t leave their home right now because they can’t expose themselves out there in public or they feel really high anxiety by other people around them wearing face masks and not been able to see their facial expression and how they talk.”

Just recently Brooks is able to see her daughter once a week, following the rules of pandemic safety they enjoyed eating a local dinner in Lincoln and going for ice cream. Slowly they are getting back to the structure that people with ASD need every day, like the safety directions at the supermarket.

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