• Vol. 49 No. 6, 384–386
  • 01 June 2020

Autism Spectrum Disorder and COVID-19: Helping Caregivers Navigate the Pandemic

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The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted societies globally. As of 11 May 2020, 53 children have been infected with COVID-19 in Singapore (Ministry of Health, Singapore, unpublished data). Children generally have mild disease, although there is emerging literature on paediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome temporally associated with COVID-19. Less well reported is the impact of COVID-19 on the daily lives and psychology of children.

This article highlights the implications of COVID-19 on an especially vulnerable population of children – children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). ASD is a developmental disorder characterised by impaired social communication, language, and restricted stereotypic behaviour with rigidities. ASD is prevalent. It is estimated that 50,000 individuals are affected by ASD in Singapore. Healthcare professionals are likely to encounter persons with ASD in their routine practice. Based on our experience in our developmental and behavioural paediatrics practice, caregivers experience significant challenges in managing children with ASD during this pandemic. Children with ASD are having difficulties adjusting to change and feeling anxious, whilst caregivers themselves are worried and fatigued. This article aims to be a resource for healthcare professionals in supporting these families. Strategies depicted are based on behavioural management principles used for ASD – promoting structure, use of antecedent strategies and positive reinforcement of desirable behaviours.

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