Lockdown Impact on Autistic Teenager

July 12, 2021

The impact of several lockdowns in Auckland on autistic children and their parents is captured by Julie Veli whose says she and her son had Covid fatigue.

The second Lockdown was TERRIBLE.

We definitely had ‘‘Covid fatigue”.

We butted heads badly.

Harper did not want to do anything, I knew he understood it was Covid but at the same time he was confused, frustrated and sad – and he had no one to take it out on but me. That is how it felt.

Harper Veli

We did not talk much during that time and we spent our time on different floors of the house.

Afterwards when we went back to school and work, we just went back to normal. I think it is because we were happy to be out of the house and away from one another.

The three- and seven-day lockdown this year we handled that much better.

We did some baking, we baked cookies. The first lockdown we did not bake because our oven was broken. He enjoyed eating what we baked. We were both more relaxed, no pressure no expectations other than to just stay home. Probably because this is the third time going through it.

There was a lot more TV, TikToks, Netflix, PlayStation, Nintendo, YouTube this Lockdown, and not much going outside. I could not fault it because we were happy, well happier than the second lockdown, we liked each other.


Julie and Harper Veli as featured in the book Life in a Pandemic. © Life Unlimited, 2020 – Alan Gibson.

This will seem vain or selfish.

The picture of myself I found confronting, because I looked ugly. My confidence took a hit. I know it showed how I felt.

My outside showed how I was feeling inside. I think it is because I try not to show that. I understand the picture went with the story that I told. I saw defeat. I look defeated. It is a true reflection of my thoughts and emotions of me trying and being tired. It showed me vulnerable and I felt that single-parent title.

Harper was very handsome, he looked happy. I take some solace looking at that picture of him in that I am a good parent. I am doing good parenting with him.

Our family and friends loved the book and have been supportive after reading it. Some of my family found the magazine article (Seasons Magazine) so that was cool. It opened their eyes to the reality for Harper. His everyday life and what his future may look like.

Our PASG (Pasifika Autism Support Group) Fanau – I know they were proud of us for sharing our story and showed us love for it.

I showed a copy of the book to some of my work colleagues who thought it was cool and who really enjoyed the other stories.

Harper loved it – seeing his face when he saw himself in the book was awesome, I wish I recorded it. He kept our frame picture front and centre in the lounge for quite a while. (Now he has put it face down on top of the fridge)

Harper is taller than when we were in the book.

When we hug all, I see is his chest. He gives good hugs.

He is becoming more independent- making his breakfast, showering, choosing his clothes and dressing all unassisted. Still struggles to do any chores.

He still needs to know ahead of time what he is doing, where we are going, what we are eating, who is going to be there – routine is still key.

He still talks about Covid most days. Talks about seeing our family in Australia, especially with the news of the travel bubble.

Recently we have gone back on the Clonidine, a small dose at lunchtime to help regulate his emotions because in the afternoons he had developed a pattern of meltdowns most days. I do not see it as a setback. It is me trying to help him, so he is not suffering.

Our goal is to get him into the satellite class at Green Bay High.

He wants it too. He talks about the school, about the school uniform, about his friend Jackson who goes there, he really wants it.

He is 14 now, and autism or not – he wants friends, to go to the mall and even go shopping for clothes at Farmers and Cotton On.

He wants to be a teenager.

  • Julie and Harper Veli appeared in the Life in a Pandemic book produced in September 2020 by Life Unlimited Charitable Trust.
  • The article appears in www.lifeunlimited.net.nz/lifeinapandemic
  • This article appeared in Altogether Autism Journal 2021.


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