Impact of coronavirus pandemic on families affected by autism

The changes to social and work life required to manage the coronavirus pandemic impose huge demands on everyone but their impact has been greatest on vulnerable people, including those living with mental health problems.

Psychiatrists from Italy carried out an online survey to assess the impact on young people with autism spectrum disorders and their families. The 40 questions covered socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of the children, the impact on their wellbeing and their needs during the emergency.

Information about 527 participants showed that 94% of families faced increased difficulties in managing daily activities including free time (78%) and structured activities (76%). Behaviour problems were more intense for 365 of children and more frequent for 42%. Not surprisingly, this was more likely in children with more symptoms before the pandemic. Specialist support was needed by 19% of children and emergency support by 1.5% but almost half needed additional healthcare support (47%), including at home (30%), and interventions to tackle a potentially disruptive quarantine (17%).

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