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Mandatory face coverings from the perspective of a 16-year-old with Asperger’s

Mandatory face coverings, thoughts and emotions from the view of a 16-year-old.


Shopping was already a stressful activity and compulsory face coverings in shops make it 10 times harder. It makes other people very intimidating because their face is just eyes. It muffles people’s voices which means I am more likely to have ask them to repeat themselves which if they are a stranger is scary as the anxiety associated with social interaction is significantly increased.

 When I saw this headline, "Met will enforce face masks as a 'last resort'.
I was worried, but by the time I had read the whole thing it was terrifying. It is alarming that the “shaming” of those exempt from wearing face coverings is being encouraged by someone in her position. Nobody should be “shamed” simply because shaming is not the right thing to do.

The thing that makes shopping hardest now, is anxiety about other members of the public asking about me about why I am not wearing a face covering. It is not an issue for a security person to ask as that is their job, to do it professionally, and they should be aware of the exemptions. It would have made a big difference if the message to the public had been, “Only worry about doing the right thing yourself. It is not for other customers to ‘police’ as you never know whether someone may be exempt as not all disabilities are obvious and not all reasons for exemption are visible.”

If people work in any kind of retail or are face to face with customers and need to wear a face covering it ought to be a visor. This would make staff less intimidating to people like me. It would also make life easier for people with hearing difficulties and those in the deaf community who rely on lip reading.

The problem with face coverings goes beyond me as it is not just that I cannot wear them, because they cause too much distress, it is also a problem for anyone else in my household to wear one as some of their face being covered causes as much distress as me wearing one myself.

My personal experience of a trip to a supermarket

Mum & dad were going to go to Sainsburys as they normally do but that happened to be a day when I wasn’t coping. This meant that I didn’t feel able to be left at home, but I was also afraid to go shopping because of the compulsory face coverings. This resulted in over an hour of extreme stress going through various scenarios/options to try and find the best one. There wasn’t a good option and in the end I became so stressed I was not safe to be left at home as I lost all strength in my muscles, lacked coordination and was unable to string sentences together. We did eventually all go to Sainsburys. I had to be in my wheelchair, which felt very disabling as a trip to Sainsburys wouldn’t normally confine me to my wheelchair. Mum pushed me with one hand and had the other hand on my shoulder for physical reassurance. Any time she took her hand off my shoulder I went into panic mode. None of us had face coverings and no staff or customers made any comment for which I was very grateful. I am not confident that people would not have said something had I not been in my wheelchair. That concern was validated the following day when my mum (I was not present), who is exempt for different reasons, was in Waitrose and was asked by a member of the public why she was not wearing a face covering. She politely explained that she was exempt, which was accepted but that incident has confirmed my fears that the public will ask people.
The impact from all the stress associated with that one trip to Sainsburys, continued into the following day as I was tired, lethargic and struggling to do anything.