The Coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a lot of information being shared by the government, news websites, blogs and health services. Is all the information too much to cope with? Is it clear enough? Luke Aylward, our *ahem* Information Officer, talks about how he sees it as an autistic person.

Ever since the Coronavirus outbreak began earlier this year, there has been a tidal wave of online and offline information about the virus. The different terms such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’, stats about infection rates and the seemingly endless stream of news items about lockdowns and changes to laws as a result of the virus all contribute to a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Picking out what affects you becomes more difficult when you hear one set of instructions one day, only for them to change the next. Being autistic, this has been difficult for me to handle. I can get overloaded at the best of times, but the outbreak and information about it has been particularly hard.


Aside from being autistic, I also have an underlying health condition (asthma). This means that I should pay more attention than most to the guidance published by the Government and NHS about social distancing. This term can get easily confused with self-isolation, where you have to stay indoors at all times.

Looking at the guidance, I have tried to find out what I can and can’t do. There have been some good examples of what the outbreak is online. However, there have been many different interpretations of it from news websites and blogs, which has been far from helpful.

Any news or information published about the pandemic should be clear, concise and consistent. If it’s not, that’s where the problems occur. For those who worry that they or someone they love has Coronavirus symptoms, this is especially important. An example of where this has gone wrong is with whether loss of taste and smell are symptomatic – some websites said yes, others said no.

Breaking news

One feature of the Coronavirus pandemic is the updates to live blogs and news programmes. There is so much new information such as changes to guidance to take in that it can be hard to keep up. It adds to my feeling of being overloaded, putting me in a difficult situation when trying to pick out what I need to know.

Live blogs are often where I turn to for the latest updates. When they are run properly, they offer short and sweet summaries of important news like changes to guidance and what support is available for people in vulnerable groups. When there are too many updates, it gets harder to pick out what’s relevant and what isn’t.

Lack of clarity

A lack of clear information is always a problem, not just when there’s a pandemic happening. There have been some examples of a lack of clarity during the outbreak though. An example is the guidance on social distancing and what you can and can’t do.

The guidance on social distancing clearly says that you can only go out once a day for exercise, shopping for essentials and/or picking up medication. What it doesn’t say is:

  • How long you can spend outside
  • How far you can travel from your home

In other countries, the rules on social distancing have been more specific. The confusion arising from how far to travel has made it harder for some people to practice social distancing.

How to help

If you are giving an autistic person information on what to do during the Coronavirus pandemic, it pays to be clear, concise and consistent. Where possible, be specific e.g. staying at least two metres apart from the nearest person when outside.

We will be producing a few information resources on our website about the virus, including a glossary of what all the different terms mean. In the meantime, we have a list of online links to useful information at this link: Online Coronavirus resources for autistic people