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The experiences of autistic adults during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK and implications for autism services development

Bettina Riese (Department of Neurodevelopmental Services, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Epsom, UK)
Raja A.S. Mukherjee (Department of Adult Neurodevelopmental Services (plural), Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Epsom, UK)

Advances in Autism

ISSN: 2056-3868

Article publication date: 15 November 2021

Issue publication date: 13 October 2022

152

Abstract

Purpose

COVID-19 has been challenging for many in the UK. This is no different to many with autism spectrum disorder. Based on the experiences and issues raised by a small group of autistic women in an ongoing support group, consideration if this holds true for the wider adult autistic community across further lockdowns and restrictions to public life was explored.

Design/methodology/approach

An online questionnaire was created based on the issues raised. Participants indicated the degree to which they agreed or disagreed with each statement.

Findings

Autistic adults experienced an increase in anxiety and poor mental health, which in turn has exacerbated autistic features, such as rigidity. The data indicates that autistic adults can adapt to change provided there is support in maintaining routines.

Research limitations/implications

The research is limited due to the small number of participants (N = 120), as well as national variations in service provision.

Practical implications

Our data raises wider questions about the nature of support for autistic adults without cognitive impairments during times of crises and how services can respond and may even be shaped in the future to provide support that is cost-effective and relevant to autistic adults.

Social implications

To ensure that services have an awareness of how crises impact on autistic adults and how relatively simple changes may avert poor mental health.

Originality/value

That the creation of local support networks, and the ability to access these, is a key feature of autism-specific support.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors thank the members of the Alongside Autism LIMA Women’s Group for inspiring and supporting this research; and Howard Childs and Ruth Millman for their opinions on the early drafts of this paper.The authors also thank the Autism Partnership Boards in West Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire for sharing the link to the questionnaires to its members.And finally, the authors thank all the autistic adults who took the time to complete the questionnaire.

Citation

Riese, B. and Mukherjee, R.A.S. (2022), "The experiences of autistic adults during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK and implications for autism services development", Advances in Autism, Vol. 8 No. 4, pp. 343-353. https://doi.org/10.1108/AIA-06-2021-0026

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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