Murray explained that lockdown brings extra challenges for people on the autistic spectrum, explaining: “I personally cannot wear a mask as it causes me severe distress.”
A young Edinburgh man who is on the autistic spectrum has explained why not everyone should have to wear a mask.
Edinburgh Live first spoke to Murray after he took it upon himself to clean the Meadows, working until 11pm filling bin bags with litter.
Murray MacDonald, 28, says he has found it hard to adjust to lockdown life, like so many of us. But Murray also has an autism spectrum disorder which make some of the lockdown changes even more of a challenge for him.
Nicola Sturgeon has announced that wearing a mask while in shops and on public transport is mandatory except for people with certain conditions like respiratory problems or people with autism.
Murray, who lives near the Meadows, said he has found the new rules really tough, although he understands why people were being asked to wear masks.
“I personally cannot wear a mask as it causes me severe distress,” he explained.
“I know that sounds petty to a certain degree but anything that covers my face makes me really stressed, I can’t even wear a Halloween mask or a mask when I’m painting my boat,” he explained.
Murray said he didn’t fully understand the reasons why he and other people with autism have a sensory issue with face coverings, but it is a widely-accepted fact.
He said the National Autistic Society and similar organisations had been working hard to support people like him through the pandemic.
“I carry an autism alert card when I use public transport and in shops,” Murray said.
“It allows me to explain to others that I am autistic”.
Murray urged others with the condition consider getting one of the cards.
“The alert cards are very handy during this time” he said, “they will give you and others that little bit of support and understanding if you get into a difficult situation when out and about.
“They are available from the National Autistic Society website”.
He added: “I’d also like to thank other organisations like Scotrail, Tesco and Sainsbury’s who have been accepting and understanding of the exemptions that autistic people have been given throughout the pandemic – such as being allowed to exercise more and not having to wear a face mask if it causes distress.”
Murray runs a charity called Autism on the Water to raise awareness through sailing.
“When the pandemic started I was devastated that what was supposed to be the charity’s biggest year was going to come to nothing,” he said.
But instead Murray has used lockdown to do a lot of behind the scenes work at his charity and now he’s got a fantastic new team helping develop more activities for people with autism.
But the biggest drawback about lockdown for Murray is something we can all relate to, being separated from family.
Murray said: “I’m so glad we are slowly returning to normal as restrictions are eased, but I’m counting down the days until I can go and visit my Mum again who lives in China.
“That’s been the hardest part of this pandemic, not knowing when I’ll next see her.”
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