Psychosocial Outcomes in Autistic Children Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Rachel Plak*, Ralph Rippe, Inge Merkelbach, Sander Begeer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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Studies on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on autistic children’s psychosocial outcomes have shown mixed results. In the current study we aimed to gain a better insight into the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic by comparing psychosocial outcomes collected pre-pandemic with data collected during the pandemic. We used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) to examine change over time in psychosocial outcomes of autistic children from pre-pandemic (T0) to lockdown I (T1) and lockdown II (T2) in the Netherlands. We expected a deterioration in psychosocial outcomes. There were 224 participants in T0 and T1, of which 141 also participated in T2. The results showed a surprising improvement in psychosocial outcomes from T0 to T1. Special education and female gender were associated with increased difficulties over time, while higher age was associated with decreased difficulties. At the subdomain level we found that emotional problems remained stable, while hyperactivity, conduct problems, and peer problems decreased, and prosocial behavior increased. Attending special education predicted increased peer problems over time, while higher age predicted both decreased conduct problems and increased prosocial behavior over time. The COVID-19 pandemic may have temporarily improved the fit between the psychosocial needs and the environment for children with autism in the Netherlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Autism and Developmental Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was funded by the Institute of Education and Child Studies, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands. The funders did not have any role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of the data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

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