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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Autism, COVID, and the European Union

In The Politics of Autism, I discuss international perspectivesComparative public policy on autism services and research needs far more study.

Jordi Cañas, a Spanish member of the European Union Parliament, writes at Parliament:
During the first months of Spain’s strict COVID-19 lockdown, some news shocked me. People on the autism spectrum, and those accompanying them, were being harassed whenever they left their homes, with people believing they were breaking stay-at-home and mask-wearing rules. The Ministry of Health had - quite rightfully and given the needs of people on the autism spectrum - allowed them to do so, but this did not stop the attacks.

This situation worried me, not only because of the negative emotional impact on people on the autism spectrum but also because it showed the general population’s level of unfamiliarity with the disorder. To raise awareness of the situation, people on the autism spectrum began wearing blue T-shirts and bandanas or high-vis vests.

This stigmatising practice should not have been necessary, and shows again how little understanding of autism there is in our society, how important World Autism Awareness Day still is, and how vital associations and their work remain.

A survey conducted by Autism Europe in 2020 showed that 73 percent of respondents felt that the needs of autistic people and their families had not been adequately addressed in relation to the lockdown measures. Moreover, the inconsistency and lack of clarity on the rules and restrictions made it difficult for people on the autism spectrum to access information, and receive the essential support they needed, triggering fear and anxiety in many of them.