New research highlights impact of Covid-19 lockdown on children with autism

New research highlights impact of Covid-19 lockdown on children with autism
While 74% of parents say they face unique challenges in the coming weeks, almost one-third also said there has been an increase in daily living skills, like household chores and food preparation. Picture: File Picture.

Parents who have children with autism say they will be faced with unique challenges now that Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted.

A report from Dublin City University (DCU) highlights a decline in children’s abilities and skills since the introduction of public health measures.

Some parents (16%) have already found that their children become anxious when attending public places because of the increased number of people, noise levels and fear of catching the virus.

It emerged that 74% of parents of a child or children with autism spectrum disorders are facing unique challenges over the coming weeks.

Many parents (61%) also reported a decline in their children’s abilities and skills.

Parents of more than a third of the children (34%) noted a decline in their ability to self-regulate emotions.

They are also concerned that almost one in four may have difficulties with their social skills.

The return to school in September was also identified as a challenge for almost one in five (17%) of children.

More than one in four parents (26%) are worried that their children will find it difficult to adhere to social distancing and public health guidelines.

A decline in academic skills such as maths, reading and writing was observed in 14% of children.

While the majority of parents were concerned about a decline in their child’s abilities, 29% noticed an increase in their children’s daily living skills, such as household chores and food preparation.

But there was also an increase in negative behaviours such as verbal protests, repetitive and rigid (routine-type) behaviours.

Behaviours exhibited by children frequently included repetitive behaviour (49%), rigid (routine-type) (38%) and verbal protests (38%).

Acting out towards others was also frequently reported for 26% of children.

More than half of the parents found that verbal protests and repetitive behaviours had worsened in the past month.

One of the lead authors, Dr Siéad Smyth from DCU’s School of Psychiatry, said the information from the study would be used to develop a free online resource toolkit.

The toolkit will be available to parents, children and educators to help them navigate through this uncertain time.

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