Autism Research and Engagement Core and SPARK Initiative Study Impact of COVID-19 on Families and Children With Autism

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There is hardly a person in the world who has not been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether that is through disruption of routine or by illness. The Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities’ Autism Research and Engagement Core and the SPARK Initiative have surveyed families in their registry to learn the impact of the pandemic on families and children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The SPARK Initiative is a landmark ASD research project funded by the Simons Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Seventy thousand  families have registered with SPARK, and all families received the survey. Eight thousand families completed the survey, and results were collected between March 16 and April 1, 2020.

Only 51 percent of parents and guardians report feeling good overall. More than 95 percent of parents or guardians report feeling overwhelmed or stressed due to the disruptions in their child’s therapy or services schedule. A similar percentage reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. An overwhelming 98 percent of respondents report that their child’s school is closed. However, a positive outcome of the survey is the sharing of strategies like social stories, pursuing hobbies and enjoying breaks for relaxation to help individuals understand and adapt to disruptions. You may see all results of the survey here.

Results of the survey were also published by Disability Scoop on April 7. On April 14, National Institute of Mental Health Director Joshua Gordon cited the results in his Director’s Message, “Coping with Coronavirus: Support for the Autism Community.”