A WREXHAM man has spoken of his experiences of living in lockdown with autism.

Diagnosed at the age of four, Andrew Edwards from Gwersyllt lives with autism and has spoken about how he has used exercise to help bring structure to his life when the world changed dramatically as lockdown rules were imposed across the UK.

He said: “When the coronavirus was starting to take a hold on society in early March, I was in total denial about the whole situation.

“I kept regurgitating stats about annual UK flu deaths in a vain attempt to help myself cope as I saw my regular daily autistic routine and social life taken away piece by piece in the days leading up to March 23.”

Andrew says it was “a really difficult initial thought process” that he wouldn’t be able to see his family and friends for the foreseeable future

He said: “I am a very sociable person with many close mates, including locally and from eleven and a half years working at Manchester United Television, and those from various facets of my life. It really would have been better for my autism to process and compartmentalise if the lockdown came in straight away rather than the dithering that ensued in the previous fortnight or so.”

With lockdown looming, Andrew and his family pulled together whatever gym equipment they had in order to have some form of routine in what would become the new and strange version of normal we know as lockdown.

Andrew has been receiving coaching session with Chris Hibbert – a semi-professional footballer with Buckley Town.

Andrew added: “Hibbo has helped an awful lot in helping me stay more resilient than I previously thought myself to be.

“His carefully programmed sessions have helped me enormously, even though I can’t wait to get back to NumberOneHSP. We have developed a very good relationship built on trust and honesty.

“My sister Melanie Beckley, who luckily lives next door and even shares a garden and porch with our mother, Hazel Davies and I, also helps greatly by taking me for a walk most days - although sometimes I am not the best of company.

“Most days we have a laugh walking in the countryside in Moss Valley near our home in Gwersyllt, which we are lucky to have. She has been unwaveringly positive, which helps most of the time, yet realistic, honest and clear in her communication, especially the latter.”

Andrew added that the lockdown has caused his mental health to fluctuate at certain times, sometimes daily, as it can be difficult for him to come to terms with the situation of a pandemic.

He said: “Weekends are the worst as I would be playing cricket for Chirk Cricket Club Second Team in the Shropshire League throughout the Spring and Summer months on Saturdays. I would also be watching plenty of cricket on television and in person during the season.

“I also lack structure at weekends, even more than usual during the crisis, as I don’t train as much as to rest up for the next week, even during lockdown.”

Despite the negative feelings at times, Andrew says he still has a lot more to be thankful for than most.

He said: “I can’t overemphasise this. At this awfully difficult time, we must take solace in whatever little positivity we can find and that is what I try to do, although it is far from easy, it will hopefully pass soon enough.”

Andrew says that the best advice he could give for those living with autism – and for those with autistic family members – during lockdown is to keep some aspect of routine.

He also had some ideas for those who are now home-schooling children that are on the autistic spectrum.

He said: “My own personal advice regarding home schooling is not to make it too structured as you are parents, guardians or carers and not schoolteachers. I think something project based every week or fortnight that would harness the interests or knowledge base of the autistic person would be better than trying to replicate education.

“Remember, all people attending any academic institution are in the same position and no one will be falling behind. Try to keep them motivated with a project though on a subject that will get them enthused and stimulated.”