Purpose: Disasters, such as the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, create significant disruptions for individuals and their communities. Understanding these disruptions is a first step towards planning for future events and disaster recovery. This research aims to explore how the initial COVID-19 restrictions, including lockdowns, impacted adults with Autism (ASD). Method: Using semi-structured interviews to understand how individuals with ASD experienced the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, twelve participants were interviewed: six individuals with ASD (ages 20-38), three parents of individuals with ASD, and three support staff for individuals with ASD. Analysis: Grounded theory methods were used to analyze the impacts of COVID-19 based on the knowledge, challenges, activities, resources, and support needs of individuals with ASD. Results: Interviews were coded. The questions generated three themes with eleven subthemes 1) COVID Knowledge: Understanding COVID, Preventative behaviors, Information resources; 2) Pre-COVID activities: social, work/day-program/school, environment, physical activities, and 3) During COVID activities: social, work/day-program/school, environment, and physical activities. Conclusion: Individuals with ASD’s understanding of COVID-19 is similar to the general public and display adequate, timely knowledge. They adopted new behaviors, including transitioning from structured physical schedules to less structured virtual schedules. Caregivers and support staff expressed concerns about preventative behaviors in the community.

Author Bio(s)

Amber Pomponio Davidson MPH is a research Coordinator at the Temple University REACH lab. She is also a PhD student at Temple University's College of Public Health Social and Behavioral Science program.

Cecilia Feeley PhD is an experienced Transportation Planner with a demonstrated history of working in the transportation/transit/paratransit industry. Skilled in Community Engagement, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Policy Analysis, Transportation Planning, and Environmental Awareness.

Beth Pfeiffer, PhD, OTR/L, BCP, FAOTA is an Associate Professor, Department of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Temple University and also the director of Temple's REACH Lab.

Mark Salzer, Ph.D is a Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Temple University. He is also director of the Temple University Collaborative on Community Inclusion of Individuals with Psychiatric Disabilities.


We would like to thank all of the individuals who participated in the study and those agencies (Philadelphia Independence Network and Community Integrated Services) who supported recruiting and scheduling participant interviews.


Submission Location


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