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

Research output: Working paper

Published copy (DOI)



Publication details

DatePublished - 5 Oct 2021
PublisherPsyArXiv Preprints
Original languageEnglish


Children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 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 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. Young people with ASD had more depression and anxiety symptoms compared to those 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 those with ASD, 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 disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on anxiety levels in young people with ASD.

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