Parents' perceptions of the impact of COVID-19 and school transition on autistic children's friendships

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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 restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to explore how parents perceived the impact of COVID-19 on their autistic child’s friendships during transition to a new school. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 14 parents of autistic children in the United Kingdom. Data were analysed using reflexive thematic analysis. Parents discussed a variety of experiences, which differed between and within school types and age groups. Several factors influenced children’s friendships during transition including support from their new school and others’ understanding of their needs. Parents described the differing expectations of what friendship was and how that affected their children’s existing and new relationships. For some, COVID-19 negatively impacted on friendships by reducing contact with existing and new friends. Others experienced positive or neutral experiences due to lockdown restrictions. This study highlights the diversity of needs among autistic children and calls for a personalised approach to transition support beyond the pandemic as one way of supporting autistic children to develop positive peer relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983–996
Number of pages14
Issue number4
Early online date6 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023

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