The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health, Quality of Life, and Service and Support Needs in Families of Children with ASD

Last Spring, as the situation for families with autistic children deteriorated, ACT collaborated with researchers at Simon Fraser University to survey the impact of COVID-19 on families in BC. The results of the survey are shocking. They show that the majority of families are extremely distressed. Nearly 40% of the 238 families who responded are concerned about the safety of other family members, largely because of the level of anxiety triggering aggression in their child with autism. Over 60% of families found MCFD supports unhelpful. Families were even more critical of Ministry of Education efforts. The situation has been so difficult, that nearly 10% of those surveyed have considered putting their children in care.

Psychology researcher Grace Iarocci, Director of SFU’s Autism and Development Disorders Lab, is urging the provincial government to better support the needs of children with special needs or risk devastating consequences.

“We knew that families of children with ASD were under tremendous stress, but as researchers we are shocked by the severity of the pressures they were experiencing even before the pandemic and how much worse it has become,” says Iarocci. “Our hope is that the provincial government will pay attention to this data and listen to families and act to provide the support families need.”

Vanessa Fong, the SFU researcher on the project presented her preliminary research results in a poster presentation. Download the poster here (pdf).

The findings of the study – funded by Mitacs, Kids Brain Health Network and ACT – were presented November 12, 2020 at a Kids Brain Health Network conference.

Read the SFU press release: “SFU researchers urge more support for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder during pandemic”