Autism champion shares his tips for young people coping with coronavirus lockdown

A South Shields autism champion has revealed how he is coping with the coronavirus crisis - with some words of wisdom for others struggling too.

Thursday, 26th March 2020, 6:00 am

Richie Smith, was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at the age of 32.

Since then he has helped thousands of young people visiting schools across the North East in his trademark yellow Mustang to raise awareness of the condition.

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Richie Smith of Awesometistic.

However, the 35-year-old has revealed that he is struggling to come to terms with the latest lockdown measures brought in as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, March 23 Prime Minister Boris Johnson brought in strict new measures only allowing people to leave the house for a few specific reasons.

Richie Smith at the launch of his book in The Bridges, Sunderland last month.

Richie has admitted his condition is making it harder for him to come to terms with the changes.

“One of the symptoms of autism is that you don’t like change in your routine,” he said.

“It’s a massive culture change for somebody with autism, its like my life has gone on pause.”

But Richie wants to help other children and young people with autism who may be struggling too.

Richie delivers a TED X Talk in Newcastle earlier this year.

With Autism Awareness Week taking place from Monday, March 30 to Sunday, April 5 he will be launching a weekly virtual talk with children and their parents.

They will have to register through the Awesometastic Facebook page by April 7 and a different group of 50 people will be invited to take part each week.

“A lot of families are going to struggle because they can’t go anywhere,” he said.

“I’m trying to stay positive – let’s use this time we have to celebrate autism.”

Here, Richie has shared a few tips which are helping him adjust to staying at home.

Let your child use their voice

“Everybody is different,” said Richie.

“Parents should use this opportunity to encourage the child to use their voice.

“This is a great opportunity to learn from their children and this family time could bring them closer together.”

Don’t let your worries rub off on them

“I don’t like to watch the news because I take it very literally,” he said.

“Let the children know why they are not at school, but don’t let any additional worries over finances, for example, rub off on them.”

Give them their own space

Richie said: “I have created my own area in the house that is safe, where I can have all my things how I want them to be.”

Build a new routine

“Take a new approach and create a new routine, taking elements of the old one but with a new structure,” he advised.“Then you’ll have something in place if you find yourself in this situation again.”

Richie’s book The Art of Weeing in the Sink is available to buy online now.