The current coronavirus pandemic has swept across the United Kingdom (UK), causing the devolved governments to implement nationwide lockdowns and local restrictions. Given the ever-evolving situation, little is known about the repercussions of coronavirus and the subsequent lockdowns for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, the hallmark features of ASD, such as chronic social-communication challenges, put autistic children at greater risk of being negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore, this study explores the social-communicative impact of the first lockdown (March 2020 – July 2020) in the UK and the return to school period (September 2020 – October 2020), following prolonged disruption to routine, in children diagnosed with ASD. 176 parents of autistic children from across the UK completed 2 separate online surveys. The results suggested that self-regulation skills ( P < .05) and co-operation skills ( P < .05) were most affected over the course of the lockdown. Additionally, children’s physical activity levels were perceived to significantly increase during the return to school (P < .0001), and this was positively associated with better social- communication outcomes (P < .05). The results also suggested the importance of school support (P < .01), maintaining contact with friends and family during the lockdown period (P < .01), and also attending school regularly during the return to school period (P < .01) for protecting against social skills worsening during these times. Future work is needed to confirm and further explore the findings of this study. Such work could be implemented to protect and improve the social-communicative outcomes of autistic children.
Morris, P., Foulsham, T., Hope, E., & Mills, J. P. (2021, January 6). Preprint: Parent-reported social-communication changes in Children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/5sqxe