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Background: COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant challenges in the life of children with ASD and their families. Restrictive containment measures and the ensuing disruption to daily routines is a particular source of concern in these vulnerable children, resulted in lifestyle, behavioral and psychosocial implications. Limited access to essential services such as speech and occupational therapy which are difficult to deliver through telehealth may contribute to regression of autism symptoms. Identifying perceived needs, dimensions of impact and strategies to cope is critical to accommodate the negative sequalae of the pandemic on children with ASD.
Aim: This review aims to generate important insights into the anticipated challenges faced by children with autism and their families as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. The secondary aim is to propose comprehensive, resilient, multi-component coping strategies that support children with autism and their families.
Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted on PubMed, ScienceDirect, Medline and Scopus from inception to 14 March 2021. The current report is an executive summary of data regarding challenges and coping strategies during COVID-19 pandemic for children with autism and their families.
Results: The literature reviewed indicates that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly led to shifting social situations and disruption of behavioral, mental, physical and social domains which have impacted individuals with ASD and their families. To mitigate the effect of the pandemic on this vulnerable population, implementation of structured multi-level and multi-component child/parent-centered interventions are of paramount importance and will assist in translating perceived negative impacts into opportunities to adapt and cope.
Conclusion: Children with ASD are uniquely vulnerable to the disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic. Transition into in-home behavioral and learning interventions is particularly challenging time for those children and their families. Barriers to essential services such as speech and occupational therapies, combined with loss of routine and predictability has widened the gap between needs and provided care. Parents, teachers and health care should aim to work collectively for a broadened approach that is child/parent centered to compensate for most of disrupted vital support and services. Practical evidence-based resources that support and guide ASD caregivers is likely to reduce anxiety and restore a sense of routine during the pandemic. Ongoing care is essential for those children in order to maintain behavior and prevent symptoms regression that contribute to better prognosis and lowered health care costs.
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