An Autistic’s Guide to getting a COVID test

If you follow me on twitter, then you may be aware of the COVID scare I had last week which invovled two COVID tests (thankfully, I don’t have COVID). Based on my experinces I decided to share what it’s like, so that other autistic people have some idea of what to expect if they need to get a COVID test here in the UK. (Note a lot of the description below comes from a twitter thread I wrote about this topic last week).

You need to book your test online before you go to the test centre. Click here to book.

Test 1- Drive through test done by a member of staff

I had a drive-through test by myself. I stayed in the car the whole time. I wore my sunflower lanyard in case I needed extra (Hopefully, the COVID testing staff recognised this and knew what it is). You can find out more about sunflower lanyard here.

My Sunflower Lanyard

You need to keep your window up most of the time (unless they ask you to put it down).

When you arrive, they will: Scan your card number plate, ask for the QR code they sent to you via e-mail, ask for ID (Passport or driving licence) and tell you where you need to drive next.

A lot of non-verbal communication was used. Being autistic and a bit anxious the time made it challenging for me. It might be a good idea to take another person with you, to help with any communication barriers if possible.

There might be some waiting before the test. When you get your test, you will be asked to put your window down.

A person in PPE will then come to your car. They will give you full instructions about how the test will be taken, including how long it will take!

They will also tell you how to say if it becomes too uncomfortable. You may also want to use @CarlyJonesMBE app if it’s easier for you! The Free app “Visual Pain Images UK “ can be found on all Android and Apple devices.

Originally tweeted by Carly Jones MBE FRSA (@CarlyJonesMBE) on October 14, 2020.

You will stay in your car and the person in PPE will do the test.

They will put a cotton swab inside your mouth and ask you to say ’ahhhh’ They will do both sides of your mouth and the back of your throat. This will last for a few seconds. I found this slightly uncomfortable and I told her when it became too much. Luckily she was just about to take the swab outside my mouth, so this wasn’t too much an issue anyway.

Next, The swab (the same one used in your mouth) is then put up your nose for 10 seconds. I did find this uncomfortable but I closed my eyes which helped.

Then the test is done! I was told that I should get the result in 48 hours.


They say results can take 48 hours. My results came about 36 hours later. I got my results via an e-mail and text message. They could not read my first test results, so I had to get a second test. 3 types of test results you can get are postive, negative or unclear. Click here for the NHS web page about what all these results mean.

Test 2- Drive through self test

I went to a different test centre this time (due to availability). This centre did self tests, rather than a member of staff doing the test.

Like the first test they will: Scan your card number plate, ask for the QR code they sent to you via e-mail, ask for ID (Passport or driving licence) and tell you where you need to drive next.

Next they told me where to park.

Once I parked, I was given a COVID test with verbal and written instructions with what to do. As I can’t remeber the full step by step guide, below useful video on how to do a self-test from Dr Amir Khan. The guide starts at 1 min 36 secs into the video and finishes at 4 mins 25 secs.

After I took the test, a member of staff checked that I had put the sample in the tube correctly and then told me to seal the bag my COVID test went it.

For the final step, I was told where to drive next, so that I could put my sample into a box.

That was the end of the test. This time I got my results back 40 hours later which was negative.

Walk in test

Some centres have walk in tests. As I have not done this type of test, below is a video explaining how walk in test centres work in the UK.

Thank you for reading and I hope you found this useful.

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