Health & Wellbeing

Health & Wellbeing

Improving vaccination experiences for the Autistic community

This short webinar was produced for Public Health Tasmania in October 2021.

It advises on aspects of vaccine clinics that Autistic people may find challenging and how to address these to better accommodate Autistic people’s needs.

 

COVID-19 Support Resources

The COVID-19 situation is causing frequent and significant changes in our daily lives. The uncertainty is unsettling for us all. On a positive note, there are many services that are creating and sharing very useful resources to help. We have compiled a list of them here. Autism Tasmania has created five information sheets (below) to offer help and advice on several COVID-19 areas (see below). If you still have questions you can always call our Advisory team on (03) 6722 5000.

  1. Mask Wearing & Social Distancing
  2. COVID-19 Vaccinations
  3. Testing for COVID-19
  4. Support for Carers during COVID-19
  5. Return to School during COVID-19 pandemic

More information on each of these topics can be found further down this page.

To stay up to date with the most recent advice, we recommend that you visit the following websites:

The Australian Government Department of Health

The Tasmanian Government Public Health link

Returning to School during COVID-19 pandemic

The Tasmanian Department of Education has released its plans for a safe return to school and there are several temporary changes in place that may affect your child’s routines and needs. For more information on this and for resources that can help with the changes, download the Autism Tasmania information sheet on Return to School during COVID-19 pandemic.

My Book About Coronavirus is an illustrated ebook for children that helps explain what a virus is and why we have various restrictions in place as well as how they keep us safe. It’s a great resource to help children understand the effects of COVID-19 and the importance of being cautious whilst remaining calm. Download the ebook here

Mask Wearing Tips & Hacks

There are times when you might need to wear a facemask, both indoors and outdoors. Some autistic people find it difficult to wear facemasks for a variety of reasons, such as sensory sensitivities, coping with change and difficulty communicating while wearing a mask. To read tips and tricks, find out about mask exemptions and exceptions download this Autism Tasmania information sheet on Mask Wearing & Social Distancing.

If you can wear a mask, you should. If you can’t, don’t panic. Even in places where wearing face masks is mandatory, there are exceptions and lawful reasons not to wear one.

Current exemptions for mask-wearing include:

  • A person under 12
  • A person with a medical certificate or other documentation from a medical practitioner (within the meaning of the Acts Interpretation Act 1931) that certifies that the person has a physical, mental health, illness or condition of disability that makes the wearing of a mask unsuitable
  • A person or a class of persons exempted by the Director of Public Health
  • For the two above, the person must also produce a legible copy, if requested, by a person in authority.

If a person has a condition where the wearing of a mask is not suitable, they will need to carry a medical certificate that states this fact.  This applies to both adults and children over age 12.

Note that the certificate does not need to state the condition – only the unsuitability of mask-wearing for the person.

Autism Tasmania is working with Tasmanian Public Health officials to develop community education that fosters the understanding that there are highly legitimate reasons why someone might not wear a mask and to be assured that that person is not a risk because they are taking all other precautions.

Download these handy tips to help when wearing a mask – COVID-19 Mask tips

Download this social story explaining why people wear masks – Social Story: wearing masks

COVID-19 Vaccines, Boosters & Tests

Autism Tasmania has created this information sheet on COVID-19 Vaccinations to help you understand more about vaccines and how to get vaccinated.

COVID-19 Tests

For help and advice on COVID-19 tests including the different types of tests and how to get tested, download this Autism Tasmania information sheet on Testing for COVID-19.

NDIS participants may be able to purchase rapid antigen tests (RATs) using their core funding from their NDIS plan. If your support workers need to undergo a RAT to ensure they can safely deliver your support, you may also purchase a RAT for them.
Find out more here.

Vaccine approved for 5-11-year-olds

The Australian Government now supports everyone aged 5 years and over to be vaccinated against Covid19.  Full vaccination is considered two doses of one of the vaccines.  Boosters are also now available to improve immunity and longevity of the vaccine.

The Tasmanian Government has created a form to help parents prepare their children with what to expect when getting an immunisation. Download My Immunisation Plan here.

It is a choice as to whether or not you get vaccinated.  If you choose not to get vaccinated, this could impact your employment.  Currently, in Tasmania, it is mandated by Public Health that healthcare workers, aged care workers, providers of disability support and people who work in pubs, bars, nightclubs and licenced events are vaccinated.  Your vaccination status can also impact your access to some venues – you now need to prove your vaccination status to enter pubs, bars, nightclubs and licenced events, and also the Hobart Aquatic Centre.

Buzzy Bees – offering pain relief when receiving your vaccination.

Buzzy Bees are a novel device that offers pain relief using a combination of cold and vibration while you receive your vaccination. Buzzy Bees are now available at state community vaccination clinics, ask about using one when you book your appointment.

How do Buzzy Bees work?

Exemption from the vaccine

In some very rare cases, people will require a medical exemption from being vaccinated against Covid-19.  Examples of reasons for medical exemptions include – had anaphylaxis after a previous dose of a vaccine or had anaphylaxis after a dose of any component of a vaccine. Health professionals who can grant medical exemptions are Paediatricians, public health physicians, infectious disease physicians, clinical immunologists and GPs who meet certain criteria. Exemptions from being vaccinated can be temporary (whilst you’re recovering from a severe illness) or permanent.

If you have a medical exemption from vaccination – you have the same status as people who have been double vaccinated.  You can get a paper-based certificate from your specialist that you can use to demonstrate proof to employers.  You can also have this recorded on the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR), which will enable you to have a digital certificate.

If you attend a venue or place of employment that is mandated that you be double vaccinated, you are required by law to show proof of your vaccination status.

COVID-19 vaccine booster program

The COVID-19 vaccine booster program is now underway!

So what are the benefits of a booster?
A booster dose will make sure the protection from your first dose is even stronger and longer-lasting and should help prevent the spread of the virus. This helps to protect you, your loved ones and your community against COVD-19. Importantly booster doses are free for everyone.

Who should get a booster dose?
Booster doses are available to everyone 18 years and over who have had both doses of their primary course of a COVID-19 vaccine at least 6 months ago.
ATAGI is not currently recommending booster doses for:

  • people aged 12 to 17 years
  • people who are severely immunocompromised and have already had a third dose.

You can book your booster jab in one of the following ways:

Disability Vaccination Clinics

These clinics help people with disability, their family and carers, and the disability workforce get vaccinated in the fastest way possible, specific to their circumstances. Search the online directory here to find a disability access hub near you.

COVID-19 Vaccination Disability Provider Alert

The Department of Health issues regular Disability Provider Alerts regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. The latest update released in October 2021 includes:

  • Hubs offering vaccination services
  • Third doses for severely immunocompromised Australians
  • National Coronavirus Helpline priority support
  • Social scripts for people with autism
  • Proof of vaccination.

Download the latest update here. 

Tips to help you prepare for getting your vaccine

These social scripts are designed to help people on the Autism spectrum know what to expect when going to get their COVID-19 vaccine. These scripts help to reduce anxiety by using story-based images and descriptions that help prepare an individual for new experiences and social environments.

Download the social script: Going to the GP to get my COVID-19 vaccine

Download the social script: Going to a mass vaccination centre to get my COVID-19 vaccine

If you’re feeling anxious about receiving your vaccine you can use the CARD system to help you feel more relaxed. This system has four key areas:

C is for Comfort, ensuring you wear something loose and comfortable

Ask questions, talk to someone you trust about what to expect and how you can prepare to make the experience easier for you

Relax, think of ways you normally keep yourself calm and relaxed like taking slow, deep breaths

Distract, if you don’t like looking at the needle you can talk to the nurse about something else or use an object to distract yourself such as reading a magazine.

Find out more about the CARD system and download this information sheet: The CARD System

This article from the Harvard Medical School discusses the challenges people on the autism spectrum may experience with wearing masks and having COVID-19 tests and offers practical solutions. For the full article follow this link

Looking after your own wellbeing

For help and advice on keeping yourself safe while caring for others, download the Autism Tasmania information sheet on Support for Carers during COVID-19.

The Australian Psychological Society has developed some information sheets that provide strategies that can help both adults and children cope with the stress or anxiety experienced as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. They can be accessed here.

For parents supporting children on the spectrum

Andrew Whitehouse and the CliniKids team at Telethon Kids Institute have developed some short videos with tips to assist parents who are supporting children on the spectrum during this challenging time. Watch the developing series here

Carol Gray is writing a series of social stories specifically about the pandemic. Read her stories here

The Raising Children Network has straightforward information about COVID-19 (coronavirus) and practical advice for families. Follow this link

The Australian Coalition for Inclusive Education (ACIE) has developed a Learning at Home During a Time of Crisis resource which can be accessed here.

Amanda Webster, a senior lecturer of autism and inclusive education at University of Wollongong has published an article via SBS Insight on 5 tips to help parents navigate the unique needs of children with autism learning from home. The page can be accessed here.

Richard Delorme, head of the Center of Excellence for Autism Spectrum Disorders and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Robert Debré Hospital in Paris and Benjamin Landman, chief resident at the center have created more than 30 instructional modules designed to provide resources, counsel, information, lessons, schedules and overall aid to families confined to their homes. The modules were published via the website www.spectrumnews.org – “Coronavirus tool kit may aid families with autistic children during lockdown” which is available here.

Health and hygiene

These 30 minute eLearning modules about Infection Control may be useful for support workers or carers who may need to have close physical contact with other people:

  • The Australian Government Department of Health has partnered with Aspen Medical who has developed this COVID-19 Infection Control training. This is for care workers in all settings. It covers the fundamentals of infection prevention and control for COVID-19
  • Disability Services Consulting have developed an online course called “Supporting People to Stay Infection Free“. This 30 minute module is an early release from their upcoming support worker training suite and goes through some theory and lots of practical strategies for preventing and controlling infections.

Many Autistic children may find it difficult to maintain an effective oral hygiene routine because of sensory sensitivities. There are things that parents and carers can do to help, such as using autism-friendly dental products, find out more here.

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