Covid19 lockdown restrictions have been hard on everyone but especially for those who have been shielding, who have been alone, those on low incomes and for those who are carers and who are cared for.
Research from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya has looked specifically at how lockdown has affected young people with autism and their families. It is hoped that the results from the research will be used to inform how better to support young people with autism.
Lockdown meant that daily routines were disrupted as centres and schools closed. Children and young people had to spend time at home with family. This had both positive and negative effects.
Most of the families that participated in the study observed a change in the emotional state of their child with ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). Specifically, parents stressed that during lockdown their children were happier, calmer and more placid than they were before it. To a great extent, they benefitted from the increase in the amount of time they spent with their families and the routines they adopted.
Researcher Cristina Mumbardó Adam explained:
“Families stressed that children and adolescents with ASD [Autistic Spectrum Disorder]adapted to the situation much better than they expected.
“In fact, following an initial period of complexity, they improved in aspects such as communication, relationships and emotional responses and they even participated more often in routines proposed by their families”
Highlighted was the importance of support from schools, which was poor at the start of lockdown, meaning there was a lack of educational resources at the beginning. Even going outdoors could be problematic with some members of the public lacking in understanding when a young person with autism was not complying with the limitations imposed on physical distancing.
Young people with autism did adapt well when having to use new remote communication channels. For example, seeing their family members, teachers and friends on video calls made during lockdown increased their well-being and calmness.
The researchers state:
“Technology was of great help and although sometimes they did not know how to use these new means of communicating with someone, just being able to see a grandparent, classmates and other family members made them happier and calmer.”
These results were those of the families who took part in the research. For some young people with autism the results may not be the same.
It is hoped that future research in this area will focus on the development of policies to ensure the well-being and academic performance of children with ASD who attend inclusive schools.
You can find the research here:
Cristina Mumbardó-Adam, Silvia Barnet-López, Giulia Balboni, How have youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder managed quarantine derived from COVID-19 pandemic? An approach to families perspectives, Research in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 110, 2021, 103860, ISSN 0891-4222, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2021.103860