OTTAWA -- An Ottawa mother is in desperate need of in-person services for her son who has autism, but many of the services have been shuttered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jade Mason is outside playing with her 11-year-old son Ronin and their dog Leda. She says today is a good day.  Ronan has autism and relies on a steady schedule of activities and respite workers to help stay focussed.

The closure of school and many of these services and facilities, and the dramatic change in routine caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has created a volatile situation. 

“The lack of routines and the lack of support has really thrown us into a tailspin,” Mason says. “He’s broken the Xbox, the TV, thrown a glass at me, broken his phone. It’s almost non-stop.”

At school, Ronin has an educational assistant to help him throughout the day and in the evenings, he takes part in a variety of extracurricular activities. He also enjoys spending time at the park with his respite care workers.  These support systems are no longer available, deemed non-essential.

"I really think that we need to support and I want people to realize that's very difficult in this time for us,” says Mason.  “It's a unique situation but a lot of families are going through it so in that sense it's not that unique.”

President and CEO of ACT Learning Centre, Cindy Harrison, works with individuals with autism and knows routine is essential. She says that while some families are thriving, others are in absolute crisis and it’s a real concern.

“Nobody did this intentionally, we just needed to respond in order to keep people safe but once you take all that away you’ve really taken the parents ability to cope.”

Harrison, a speech and language pathologist, says that parents are the experts with their child but that certain situations can be stressful and there is a different set of emotions then with a worker.

Virtual platforms are available, but Mason says her son would be unable to focus on a video screen and that it’s not the same as face-to-face interaction.

Mason is trying to maintain a daily household routine, but is finding it difficult. Her hope is to bring awareness to this issue, adding she doesn’t want her family to be fractured because of this.