A Longitudinal Study of the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents with Autism and their Parents during COVID-19: Part 1 Quantitative Findings

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Abstract

Autistic children and adolescents and their parents are likely to have been disproportionally affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. There has been little focus on how the mental health of these vulnerable families developed during the pandemic and how it compared to those with other special educational needs and disabilities (SENDs). Questionnaires were completed by a maximum of 527 parents/carers about their own and their child’s mental health at one or more time points between 23rd March 2020 (at the onset of the first lockdown) and 10th October 2020 (when schools fully reopened for face-to-face teaching). Multi-level regression models were fitted to the data. Autistic young people had more depression and anxiety symptoms compared to young people with other SENDs throughout the study period. As lockdown progressed and schools subsequently re-opened for face-to-face teaching anxiety levels decreased for young people with SENDs but not for autistic young people, whose anxiety remained stable throughout. Depression symptoms, however, remained stable for both groups during this period as did parents/carers’ psychological distress and wellbeing. These findings shed new light on the likely disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on anxiety levels in autistic young people.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalAutism
Early online date7 Jun 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jun 2022

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