Parents’ Experiences of the Impact of Changing School During COVID-19 on their Autistic Child’s Friendships: an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

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DatePublished - 29 Sep 2021
PublisherPsyArXiv Preprints
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Friendships play a key role in supporting a successful transition to a new school for autistic children and young people. However, little is known about how these relationships have been impacted by the social restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to explore how parents experienced the impact of school transition on their autistic child’s friendships across differing educational settings during the pandemic. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 14 parents of autistic children in the UK. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Parents discussed a wide variety of experiences which differed between and within school settings. Several factors influenced children’s friendships during the transition including support from their new school and others’ understanding of needs. Existing friendships were found to support successful transition for some children, however, parents expressed that many had differing expectations of what friendship was, which affected their relationships. For some, COVID-19 negatively impacted on friendships by reducing their ability to be in contact with existing and new school friends. Others experienced positive or neutral experiences. This study highlights the diversity of needs for autistic children and calls for a personalised approach to transition support beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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