In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters. And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all.
In this study, we show that autistic people and their families have found it very difficult to deal with the lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic. Autistic and non-autistic researchers spoke to 144 people, including 44 autistic adults, 84 parents of autistic children and 16 autistic young people (12–18 years old). We asked them about their everyday lives and mental health during lockdown. People told us that they enjoyed having fewer obligations and demands compared to pre-COVID-19 life. They felt that life was quieter and calmer. But people also told us again and again how much they missed meeting people in real life, especially their friends, and their therapists and support workers. People told us that their mental health suffered because they did not have contact with their friends and services. Importantly, many people (including researchers) think that autistic people do not want friends or to be around people. But our results show that is not true. Many autistic people do want friends and to be around other people. Some people’s mental health has been damaged by not being able to see people during COVID-19. Autistic people need support in many areas of life so they can keep socialising and seeing their friends even through difficult times, like pandemics.