A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Winter, 2022 | Number 1, Volume 36

School closures strongly impact children with ASD

Data from a recent survey indicate that children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have been more severely impacted than neurotypical children by school shutdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Helen Genova and colleagues surveyed 250 parents of children between 4 and 15 years of age. Two-thirds of the children were neurotypical, while one-third had ASD. 

The researchers report, “Overall, parents of children with autism were more than three times as likely to report negative changes in their child compared to parents of neurotypical children. When asked about autism-specific stressors, parents of autistic children reported concerns related to hygiene, behavioral regression, therapy disruption, meltdowns, and returning to school.” While neurotypical children suffered primarily as a result of isolation from their peers, children with ASD struggled most with routine disruptions. The researchers also found that children with ASD participated less than neurotypical children in virtual social experiences, putting them at even greater risk of negative outcomes. 

“While returning to school and socialization may represent a panacea for neurotypical children,” the researchers conclude, “it is possible that children with autism may have significant needs resulting from the pandemic that must be examined. For example, educational losses (due to inability to attend to an online format), must be directly addressed in order for children with autism to ‘catch up’ to their peers. It would be unacceptable for an entire generation of autistic children to continue to struggle with educational goals compared to their peers.”


Citations

“Effects of school closures resulting from COVID-19 in autistic and neurotypical children,” Helen M. Genova, Aditi Arora, and Amanda L. Botticello, Frontiers in Education, November 23, 2021 (free online). Address: Helen Genova, [email protected]

—and— 

“Survey heightens concern about pandemic’s impact on education of students with autism,” news release, Kessler Foundation, February 17, 2022