Autistic communities all around the world are faced with the huge disruption that has come from COVID-19. Through an in-depth study across Australia by a team of autistic and non-autistic researchers involving more than 130 participants, many valuable insights about how this pandemic has affected autistic people and families with autistic children have been found. While there are many reasons to think that autistic people are particularly at risk, the most striking finding was that most autistic interviewees missed those aspects of social life that the pandemic lockdown measures had taken away. They struggled with the inability to spend time with friends outside the family, or even just to engage in the incidental social contact that made them feel part of their community. They also greatly missed the human contact that typically comes with much service provision and felt that technological innovations like telehealth were an inadequate substitute for face-to-face therapy and support. Many shared the detrimental impact that such disconnection had on their mental health.
In this talk, the findings will be discussed in the context of current, common assumptions about autistic people and what these findings mean for future service provision, research and practice.