Beating the Virus

Having someone with an intellectual disability or an autistic child at home during coronavirus is a real blessing and an invitation to spend our days more mindfully but creating a new shared rhythm may take families like mine a little longer.  Beyond Words, the charity I founded and chair, has been busy producing some wordless booklets which may help with ideas!

The BW method relies on the power of stories to help people understand and for people who understand pictures better than words, then that narrative has to be in pictures.

Truthful Stories in pictures empower people – Before lockdown, my son was very unwell with what could have been flu or Covid-19. He was scared, he didn’t understand about covering his cough or self-isolating. He didn’t understand the importance of drinking lots of fluids. We didn’t have an existing story about a virus, so we asked the artist of an existing book called Belonging to create a new episode involving its two much-loved characters – Kali and Stefan.

In Beating the Virus, Kali develops symptoms of Covid-19. NHS111 advises her to stay home and to drink lots of fluids. She rings Stefan who brings some essential supplies and models how to keep his distance. Kali recovers.

Beating the Virus has already been downloaded 2000 times across Europe- of course being wordless it’s not language dependent, although it does include advice for carers at the end.

But there is another more widespread challenge. How to explain the stay home, stay safe message.

My son challenged me- you can’t tell me to stay at home. I have to go to the bank, the shop, my cafe – I want to see my friends, and so on and of course, we want him to make his own choices, but those choices are not his to make just now.  We had a couple of bad days, but soon things settled into a new peaceful pattern of mainly good days.

We have pulled together a second wordless booklet called ‘Good days and bad days during Lockdown’ by collating short stories from existing books. The aim is to help think about how it feels to be isolated and frustrated and how to manage disappointment and lost opportunities- my camp has been cancelled; my birthday party is now online.  And more importantly to have fun thinking about other ways to live at the moment.

For my son this includes a virtual bookclub using zoom with the images being shared online just as we are today; a daily colouring session with a friend using facetime; an online dance class with dance syndrome and lots of WhatsApp calls to friends and family.

Both of the booklets can be downloaded free from

We hope that readers won’t need our third booklet which is aimed at family carers facing death of a family member because of coronavirus either at home or in hospital.  This is illustrated but aimed at carers, not directly for people who struggle with words. But it does include links to our very truthful wordless stories about death and dying: When Mum Died, When Dad Died, When Somebody Dies and Am I Going to Die?