70% of autistic people were left without the usual support of the relevant services due to the coronavirus pandemic. These survey results were published by the leading European association ‘Autism-Europe’. The survey was conducted from March 23 to June 15, 2020, and has 1,811 participants from 38 countries. Thanks to the International Non-Governmental ‘Child with Future’ Organization, Ukrainian autistic people also participated in this survey.
“The ‘Autism-Europe’ Association wanted to understand the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on autistic people and their families, socio-economic consequences, the impact on the health care system,” says the Consul of Autism-Europe in Ukraine and the founder of the ‘Child with Future’ Foundation Inna Sergienko.
According to Inna, 85% of the participants said that in their countries they took official measures to keep people at home due to the spread of COVID-19. These quarantine restrictions forced families to spend more time together than usual, leading to tensions in many families. It was reinforced by the lack of access to support services.
“Considering my mental state, the problem is that I do not live alone and can no longer rest peacefully. The apartment is too small,” comments an autistic person from Ukraine. The situation is not better among autistic people who live in special institutions: they are going through the epidemy hard because visits to families or friends are limited, as well as access to open space.
73% of the participants noted that the needs of autistic people and their families were not adequately met during the COVID-19 outbreak. 60% of respondents said there was a special provision and allowed to go outside during the COVID-19 outbreak. 28% noted that there was nothing like this, and 11% of the respondents did not know whether there were such rules or not.
“It’s a shame, but about 70% of 978 respondents noted that their connection with the support service was interrupted,” Inna Sergienko comments on the results. “Only a quarter (26%) of the respondents said that they are still in contact with the support service.”
An international survey showed that when families of autistic people tried to access basic services such as shops, pharmacies, delivery services, about half of the respondents faced difficulties.
The COVID-19 outbreak has also affected the financial situation of ‘autistic’ families. Thus, almost one in three noted that they had no opportunity to work at home; 10% of respondents had to take care of a relative, and 7% were fired from their jobs.
“To overcome the negative consequences that the survey showed, the Autism-Europe Association recommended the creation of the Europian Solidarity fund to overcome the consequences of short-term unemployment and unemployment of people with disabilities and their relatives. It will also be advisable to increase the number of jobs available for autistic people because distance occupation has become common in some sectors,” says Inna Sergienko. “There are also simpler things that will also help autistic people feel more comfortable: countries should take care of the availability of shops for autistic people and their relatives (if necessary) by defining special hours and communicating with autistic people and society. It is also important to reduce public panic so that autistic people and their families can buy their food and supplies. “