A Longitudinal Study of the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents with Autism and their Parents during COVID-19: Part 2, Qualitative Findings

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In Part 1 of this United Kingdom based study (Toseeb & Asbury, 2022), across four timepoints between March and October 2020, autistic children and young people showed higher levels of parent-reported depression and anxiety symptoms than those with other Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SENDs). In the current study we draw on qualitative data from 478 parents/carers of autistic pupils and those with other SENDs to conduct a longitudinal qualitative content analysis examining stability and change in the mental health of these young people, and their parents/carers, during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Worry and psychological distress were dominant categories at all timepoints and we noted that, in line with quantitative findings, worry in autistic pupils stayed stable over time but decreased for those with other SENDs. The third dominant category was wellbeing and we saw evidence that removing demands, especially the demand to attend school, was a driver of wellbeing for a significant minority of pupils, particularly autistic pupils, and their parents/carers. Overall, we observed no differences in mental health experiences between the two groups of parents, also mirroring quantitative findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-199
Issue number1
Early online date7 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023

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