Unemployment and under-employment affected some 70% of adults on the autism spectrum even before the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, a major economic downturn combined with workplace-safety issues has affected millions of workers in general. This makes employment a crucial issue to address in the adult-autism community.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss information and suggestions about how to seek and maintain employment during the pandemic. It is also a chance to discuss how to stay safe on the job, and resources to help with employment and with unemployment.
Expert Participants: AnnaMaria Bliven; Ibrahim Harun; Deena Huerkamp; Arik Marmorstein; Lance Owens; Paige Parr
COVID-19, which is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is a serious disease that can lead to death or permanent organ damage. How COVID-19 operates, and what kinds of damage it can do to the body, are still being discovered by medical researchers. How COVID-19 interacts with the biology of people on the autism spectrum is unknown.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss facts about COVID-19, including how to avoid it, how to not transmit it, its complications, its implications, and how it may intersect with other health issues — for example, other health issues commonly experienced by people on the autism spectrum.
Expert Participants: Lauren Bishop; Ellen Merker
The year 2020 has been anything but normal when it comes to the large-scale trends in American society and politics. At both the state and national level, societal and political forces are having a direct impact on tens of millions of people. How the adult-autism community is being affected by these policies and partisan conflicts is uncertain, but likely to be worse than for the general public.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss information about recent state and national trends that have shaped our society and politics, such as historical context, changes to governmental policies and programs, and the unfolding effects of political psychology, with an emphasis on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Expert Participants: Philip Chen; Louis Fucilla; Lilly Goren
Due to the economic impact of COVID-19, including job losses, medical bills, mental-health costs, and other factors, fewer Americans than ever before in recent history can feel financially secure. Adults on the autism spectrum, who already struggle with employment and executive-functioning skills, are likely to be especially hard-hit by such difficulties.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss information about methods and resources for managing limited money during difficult and uncertain times, with an emphasis on financially coping with being unemployed or under-employed.
Expert Participants: Majel Hein; Peggy Olive; Jennifer Tryzna; Chelsea Wunnicke
Many factors in recent months have had a major impact on Americans’ mental health. Social distancing, quarantines, the risk of catching COVID-19, coping with the death or illness of loved ones with COVID-19, economic hardship, and political divisiveness and instability are all sources of serious fear, anxiety, and other forms of stress. Most adults with autism live with anxiety, depression, or other mental-health challenges, making the effects of the pandemic that much worse for their mental health.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss information about recognizing, coping with, and supporting the effects of social isolation, remote relationships, lack of resources, and anxiety over such problems, as well as anxiety over the general state of our country over the past several months.
Expert Participants: Marissa Alert; Casey Burrows; Rebekah Hudock; Chimei Lee; Bruce Robertson
Due to national economic losses at the same time as greatly increased demand for medical and mental-health treatment, support programs, and resources, these services are more important (and in some cases, more under-funded) than ever. Adults on the autism spectrum have always done best with access to such supports, and the COVID-19 pandemic has both amplified those existing needs and created new needs in the adult-autism community.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss information about general and specific resources, services, programs, and persons available to help adults on the autism spectrum across a wide range of needs and circumstances, whether focused on autism, on the pandemic, or otherwise.
Expert Participants: Kitty Bonde; Lauren Dettmer; Bill Huisheere; Kiley McLean; Tara Rollins
Due to the increased demand for resources to cope with the pandemic, concerns about legal rights and legal eligibility for protections, programs, and services have become even more important for adults on the autism spectrum. Navigating the bureaucracy surrounding these issues is challenging for almost anyone, especially in Wisconsin, where services are highly decentralized. This makes this urgent need difficult for most adults with autism to manage on their own.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss information about legal issues connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, including eligibility for programs, how to self-advocate about legal issues to government agencies, legal rights about housing, work safety, medical and mental health treatment, and so on.
Expert Participants: Hayley Archer; Robin Ann Jones; Marsha Mansfield; Jeff Spitzer-Resnick; Nicki Vander Meulen
2020 has been a year of important, contentious, and dramatic events regarding social justice in America. Though many such headlines this year have not been directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pandemic has intersected with social justice. For example, access to health care and COVID-19 death rates have been much worse in some racial and ethnic groups than others in America. Further, autism itself is a subject of social justice, whether in terms of access to resources or in terms of autism as an identity.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss information about current social-justice issues in the U.S.; about how the adult-autism community fits into the larger social-justice context; and about what role and relationships adults with autism can or should have about the social-justice movement, whether in general or about autism in particular.
Expert Participants: Sarah Bubash; Katherine Hilson; Kiley McLean
Many of the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are not obvious, though they are still important. Changes in how we live, work, communicate, interact, think about issues, do or do not seek help, and plan for our futures have all had pervasive and far-ranging effects on American culture. Some of these changes have been for the better, some for the worse, and some simply necessary — but all with their own effects on what Americans expect from each other, and even from ourselves.
This session is a chance to seek and discuss information about coping with the abrupt, widespread, sometimes drastic, and often confusing ways in which everyday American culture has changed due to the pandemic. This includes the shift to online communication (everything from online etiquette to online dating), norms and standards regarding social distancing and mask use, restrictions on various activities, and political conversations, among numerous other changes.
Expert Participants: Karen Fisher; Liza Hellenbrand; Ellen Merker; Christine Peterson; Bruce Robertson; James Williams
All topics reflect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether those impacts are direct or indirect.