Collection: Psycho-educational effects of the coronavirus emergency

Brief Report

Parent-Reported Behavioural Changes in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder During the COVID-19 Lockdown in Italy



Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterized by impairments in social interaction and reciprocal communication. During a pandemic, when social distancing becomes mandatory for all, both parents and children are not supported in-person by their therapists and cannot participate in usual therapies. This study reports the main clinical changes experienced by parents of children with during the first month of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy. Using standardized questionnaires, the families of 63 ASD children were interviewed in February and April 2020. Findings showed an increase in restricted and repetitive behaviours in about 30% of the sample; also, motor restlessness and sleep disturbances increased, with greater irritability and mood dysregulation. On the other hand, no changes emerged in personal self-care autonomies, in taste/smell sensitivity, and in auto or other-directed aggression.

Despite the undeniable negative impact that lockdown can have on the psychosocial well-being of children, having maintained a continuity in supporting families, parental counselling (even if online and not in-person) helped families to redefine the meanings of behavioural changes of their children and to understand their adaptive functionality.


Autism Spectrum DisorderCOVID-19quarantineparentsclinical symptoms
  • Year: 2020
  • Volume: 1 Issue: 1
  • Page/Article: 117–125
  • DOI: 10.5334/cie.20
  • Submitted on 21 Jul 2020
  • Accepted on 31 Aug 2020
  • Published on 16 Sep 2020
  • Peer Reviewed