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Autism Spectrum Disorder Behavioral Implications of the Covid-19 Process, and Individuals’ Awareness and Reactions to Pandemic Conditions based on California, USA

Myung Suh Choi, Irene Chon, Katherine Lee, Kevin Kang, Juno Kim, Eddie Bae
Published: 2 April 2021

Abstract: Vulnerable populations, such as patients with mental illnesses, are known to be overly influenced during disasters and pandemics. However, little is known about how people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), one of the most common neurodevelopmental conditions in the world with a prevalence of 1%, are affected by health-related disasters, particularly the current Covid-19 pandemic. We investigated how individuals with ASD responded to Covid-19 in terms of comprehension and adherence to implemented measures; changes in their behavioral problems; and how the anxiety levels of their caregivers relate to these behavioral changes. Our sample consisted of 50 individuals with ASD (30 male and 20 female; ages ranged from 3 to 14). The majority of our participants had trouble grasping what Covid-19 is and the measurements it necessitates. They also encountered difficulties in implementing pandemic-related social distance and hygiene regulations. During this time, the majority of students stopped receiving special education. In terms of increased stereo-types, aggression, hypersensitivity, behavioral problems, and sleep and appetite changes, we observed a Covid-19-related clinical presentation that resembled PTSD in individuals with ASD. Aberrant Behavior Checklist (ABC) subscales differed significantly before and after the pandemic conditions. There were differences among the caregivers’ anxiety levels between the current behavioral problem levels to the behavioral problem levels prior to the pandemic. The difference in ABC total score, and specifically the lethargy/social withdrawal subscale score, predicted the anxiety score of the parents. Our findings suggest that the Covid-19 period poses unique challenges for people with ASD and their caregivers, emphasizing the importance of targeted, distance special education interventions and other support services for this population.
Keywords: ASD / caregivers / populations / score / people / behavioral problem / Pandemic Conditions / Covid

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