This month's Blog article was featured in the January 2021 issue of our digital newsletter, Aspire Wire. To receive future Aspire Wire emails, please subscribe here.  

Written by Scott McLeod, PhD

MGH Aspire, Executive Director

It’s a new year (thank goodness!) The vaccinations are arriving, giving us hope that we may soon transition back to our normal way of life. We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

For many in our autism community, however, the experienced anxiety persists.

The past twelve months have been especially difficult and challenging for our participants and their families. MGH Aspire’s work is far from over in supporting our autism community. The vaccinations will take months to roll out and to have a perceptible impact on our daily social, educational and professional lives. How does one decide how stressed and anxious one should feel in times like this? I write the word "decide" purposefully. In our coaching about stress management, we at MGH Aspire teach that one needs to assess the level of concern and match our anxiety to that assessment. Of course, today, the stressors are real, serious, and unrelenting. It is reasonable to feel like we want to curl up in a ball and wait until someone tells us that it's completely safe to rejoin the world.  At some point though, there is only so much we can do to create a safe and predictable environment: We take our precautions, assess risk and reward, and move forward.  

This is a very difficult task.

For many of us, the scenario that I just painted existed pre-pandemic. For those prone to anxiety or who have challenges with predicting what will happen next even in their day to day experience, they have been struggling with this level of anxiety for a long time. 2020 has helped many of us better understand and empathize with people who have been anxious much of their lives.

At MGH Aspire, we are looking forward to what 2021 will bring.  Our programs will continue to grow in response to the needs of our community. Our staff will continue to identify and build on the strengths of individuals and support them as they engage with continued success in their social, work, family and educational lives. 

As the vaccination program rolls out, we'll be supporting our community in getting and holding jobs; developing deeper connections with peers and family; and improving a strong sense of who they are and identifying where they want to be.  We continue to embrace the excitement we've had in our jobs pre to post pandemic.