“This may be a really good opportunity to make the world a more autism friendly place”: Professionals’ perspectives on the effects of COVID-19 on autistic individuals

Debbie Spain*, David Mason, Simone J Capp, Laura Stoppelbein, Susan W White, Francesca Happé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The COVID-19 (C-19) pandemic affects everyone. Autistic individuals may be at increased risk of experiencing difficulties coping with the impact of C-19 (e.g. due to unexpected changes to usual activities and routines, and the general sense of uncertainty). This preliminary study gathered the perspectives of health and social care professionals, and researchers, about: (1) vulnerability factors for coping with the pandemic; (2) the impact of the pandemic; (3) service provision during the pandemic; and (4) interventions to support reintegration during and post the pandemic. Method: We conducted an online survey, comprising Likert-scale and free text responses. Quantitative data were analysed descriptively, and qualitative data thematically. Results: Thirty-seven participants, working in clinical, education and academic settings with autistic individuals, completed the survey. C-19 had substantially impacted service provision, causing major disruption or loss of services. Thematic analysis indicated six overarching themes: (1) vulnerability factors for coping with C-19 and lockdown; (2) positive and negative impact of lockdown (for autistic individuals, families and professionals); (3) public health response to C-19; (4) service provision during the pandemic; (5) inequalities; and (6) looking to the future. Conclusions: Professionals, across disciplines and settings, must now work together with autistic individuals and their families, to understand the impact of these extraordinary circumstances and develop ways everyone can be supported more effectively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101747
JournalResearch in Autism Spectrum Disorders
Volume83
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Keywords

  • Autism
  • COVID-19
  • Health and social care
  • Health professionals
  • Telehealth

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