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Special Reports Curated collections of articles on special topics in autism.
lone researcher confronts the giant coronavirus from within the pillars of a crumbling institution
ILLUSTRATION BY
Vanessa Branchi

The coronavirus pandemic is altering autism research in unprecedented ways. It also has had a huge impact on the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. This special report wraps up Spectrum’s coverage so far on the myriad reverberations of the virus within the autism community.

In the academic world, conferences have been cancelled and labs have put clinical trials on hold, moved their efforts online or shuttered altogether. Scientific journals are extending deadlines for authors and editors, and the U.S. National Institutes of Health is similarly granting researchers greater flexibility in their applications, budgets and progress reports. Scientists are redesigning some studies for a socially distanced world. Clinicians, meanwhile, are rethinking how to screen for autism and offer therapy remotely.

For some people on the spectrum, life in lockdown is aggravating anxiety and other autism traits. Women and children with autism, and those living in group homes, seem particularly hard hit by the pandemic, although the experiences of autistic people have been almost as varied as the condition itself.

This special report also includes advice for families on managing lockdown from researchers and advocates, and calls for maintaining disability services and disability rights during the crisis. In a podcast and two webinars, you can listen to autistic people, clinicians and researchers discuss the pandemic and their experiences.


Featured Articles

Amidst the pandemic, autism’s largest conference moves online

by  /  1 June 2020

Organizers of the International Society for Autism Research’s annual meeting will host digital offerings on 3 June.

Assortment of journal covers.

Journals prepare for changes as coronavirus interrupts research

by  /  26 March 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts researchers’ working lives, the academic journals that publish their work are adjusting too.

Scene showing empty bike racks on Stanford campus.

Coronavirus’ effect on autism research may have long-term consequences

by  /  16 March 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered universities and institutes, leaving scientists scrambling to continue their research.

Caregiver and person with autism are inside a delicate protected sphere, while the COVID19 virus looms all around them.

How governments should maintain disability services during the pandemic

by  /  24 March 2020

People with disabilities are at increased risk of medical and other complications from coronavirus infection. There is a lot that governments can do to help them.

Family inside house--boy is having a meltdown--parents are watching and mom is making a call for advice or support.

Coronavirus tool kit may aid families with autistic children during lockdown

by ,  /  21 April 2020

To help families cope with the sudden loss of professional support during the pandemic, one team in France has created a set of resources and information.

two people social distancing

Spectrum stories: Life in lockdown with autism

by  /  17 June 2020

Host Chelsey B. Coombs talks to clinicians and people with autism about their experience of the pandemic, how their routines have changed and some of the unexpected benefits.

Mom at home with two kids trying to help them with online work.

Quarantine may hit autistic women and children hardest

by  /  6 May 2020

The coronavirus lockdown has radically disrupted autistic people’s schedules and access to services, according to a new survey.

How to help autistic children cope with pandemic lockdowns

by  /  28 April 2020

Sheltering in place is especially hard for autistic children who dread changes in routine and who may have learned to repress their ways of managing stress. Here are tips to help them cope.

Teenage boy sitting alone, hand over his eyes, in the fading light.

‘Flattening the curve’ may pose tough challenge for autistic people

by  /  1 April 2020

Social distancing may pose special challenges for people with autism and their caregivers.

doctor with remote patients on screen in his office

Remote diagnosis, support could aid families during lockdown

by  /  27 April 2020

Cut off from clients by the pandemic, clinicians are turning to video conferencing and other technologies to diagnose children with autism.

U.S. funding agency offers researchers flexibility during pandemic

by  /  7 April 2020

The National Institutes of Health is offering autism researchers who are coping with the coronavirus pandemic flexibility with their grant applications, budgets and progress reports.

How to run a lab from home during a pandemic

by  /  31 March 2020

While much of the world’s operations have sputtered to a halt, some labs have found ways to keep science moving forward.

Researcher talking on phone and working on computer at home.

Autism researchers adapt studies for a socially distant world

by  /  30 April 2020

Locked out of labs during the coronavirus pandemic, scientists are moving their investigations to virtual and online formats, a shift that may bring lasting changes to autism research.

Autistic in a pandemic: Stories from around the world

26 May 2020

Nearly two dozen autistic people or their caregivers in 19 countries told Spectrum how the initial weeks of the pandemic have challenged and changed them.

patient in hospital on ventilator, seen through a window.

Autistic people must not be denied access to ventilators

by  /  5 May 2020

With life-saving gear in short supply during the pandemic, health authorities must ensure that disabled people are not pushed to the back of the line.

Webinar: Themba Carr, Amy Esler, Jeffrey Hine and Stephen Kanne on autism clinicians’ responses to COVID-19

23 April 2020

On 23 April, Themba Carr, Amy Esler, Jeffrey Hine and Stephen Kanne spoke about how COVID-19 has affected their clinical practices, plus strategies for continuing to work during the crisis.

Coronavirus threatens autistic people living in group homes

by ,  /  21 May 2020

Living in close quarters, with rotating staff and sometimes inadequate protective equipment, group-home residents are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.

Photo of Somer Bishop. Gaia Novarino and Huda Zoghbi

Webinar: Somer Bishop, Gaia Novarino and Huda Zoghbi on COVID-19 and autism research

31 March 2020

On 31 March, Somer Bishop, Gaia Novarino and Huda Zoghbi discussed how COVID-19 has affected their autism research and clinical practices, plus strategies for continuing to work during the crisis.

anti vaccine protesters

How anti-vaccine activists are using COVID-19 to boost their movement

by ,  /  28 April 2020

While most of the world hungers for a vaccine to put an end to the death and economic destruction wrought by COVID-19, some anti-vaccine groups are joining anti-lockdown protesters to challenge restrictions aimed at protecting public health.