This year the theme of World Autism Awareness Day is ‘inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World’ and the effect the pandemic has had on the education and well being of children and young people with autistic spectrum conditions (ASC).
7 out of 10 parents of autistic children said that their child had had difficulties understanding and completing schoolwork due to changes caused by the pandemic, demonstrating the vast number of children with ASC that the pandemic affected. Furthermore, over half of the parents said that their child’s academic progress in education struggled due to the pandemic.
These facts put into perspective the damage the pandemic has done to the progress of children with autistic spectrum conditions in education and their quality of life.
Another interesting fact is that when compared to neurotypical children, during June and July, children with ASC were 7 times more likely to experience chronic loneliness and 6 times more likely to have low life satisfaction.
This is during the summer months when school terms end and shows the importance of the routine of going to school and the chance to physically meet and socialise, particularly, for those with autistic spectrum conditions.
The massive shift from physical socialising to virtual socialising behind a screen has been difficult and left it’s marked as reflected by the above facts. Although now the pandemic’s lockdown is not as intensive, it is the impact it has had on the education of those children with ASC who experienced it.
The pandemic highlighted issues in society, already 4 out of 5 young people experience mental health disorders and the pandemic did not help this and definitely made it worse as access to facilities was significantly reduced.
Employment opportunities were reduced as well and people with ASC struggle to gain employment, only 21.7% of those with autism in the UK are in paid employment, the pandemic made it much harder and added to the great challenge that lockdown caused for everyone but those with ASC in particular because issues that affected them already existed before the lockdown made them much, much worse.
This is the reason why the theme of this year’s World Autism Awareness Day is about the challenges of those with ASC experience in education and the workplace.
This week is about creating an understanding of the difficulties those ASC have had and how the pandemic has worsened things for them. It is about not just the promotion of awareness but most crucially about acceptance for those with ASC.