Preparing for the Next Disaster: Lessons Learned From the Early Experiences of Autistic Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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.
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.
Davidson AP, Feeley C, Pfeiffer B, Salzer M. Preparing for the Next Disaster: Lessons Learned From the Early Experiences of Autistic Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. 2023 Jan 04;21(1), Article 4.
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