How did Autistic Children, and their Parents, Experience School Transition during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

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DatePublished - 27 Oct 2021
PublisherPsyArXiv Preprints
Number of pages24
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant school closures, social distancing measures, and restrictions placed on routine activities, the start of the academic year in September 2020 was a unique time for those transitioning to a new school. This study aimed to explore the experiences of parents who supported autistic children making a school transition in 2020, and to examine what impact parents perceived the COVID-19 pandemic had on their child’s school transition. Emphasis was placed on identifying facilitating factors that had benefitted school transitions, and barriers, which had negatively impacted these experiences. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 13 parents of autistic children in the UK. Reflexive thematic analysis was carried out to identify themes in interview data. Parents reported a variety of experiences, and factors that were perceived as facilitatory to some were observed to be barriers by others. For some parents, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted aspects of school transitions. For example, school closure in March 2020, being unable to visit their child’s new school, and social distancing measures were discussed as being barriers to an easy transition. However, other parents identified these factors as being facilitatory for their child or reported that these circumstances created opportunities to approach the school transition in a unique, improved manner. This paper sheds light on the heterogeneity of experiences and perceptions of parents of autistic children, and highlights the need to examine the impact of COVID-19 on school transitions, including practices which may be advantageous to retain.

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