Credentials Display

Dr. Aaron Dallman, PhD, OTR/L; Catherine M. Perry, B.A.; Jessica E. Goldblum, M.A.; Nicole M. Butera, PhD; Brian A Boyd, PhD; Clare Harrop, PhD


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic caused unprecedented changes to the lives of many. The aim of this paper was to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted behavioral inflexibility (BI) and anxiety among autistic children and how autistic children and their families have adapted to COVID-19-related routine changes.

Methods: This sequential mixed-method study included two phases. During the first phase, parents of autistic children (N = 48) completed an online survey consisting of the Behavioral Inflexibility Scale (BIS) and the Parent-Rated Anxiety Scale – Autism Spectrum Disorder (PRAS-ASD). During the second phase, a subset of parents (parents of adolescents, N = 11) was invited to participate in a virtual focus-group.

Results: The parents reported a wide range of BI during the pandemic (BIS M = 2.03, SD = 1.02, range = 0.21 – 3.86). Child BI was a significant predictor of anxiety (t[40] = 5.56, p < .0001). From the focus groups, 155 codes were organized into four themes, two of which are discussed in this paper: child client factors that have changed during the pandemic and changes to family routines.

Conclusions: In this preliminary study, the parents identified problematic BI and anxiety among their autistic children. The outcomes of this small-scale study indicate that some of the changes to routines brought about by the pandemic may be helpful for autistic children after the pandemic restrictions have ended. We provide a unique perspective on how to leverage occupational changes that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic to aid autistics during non-pandemic times.


The authors declare that they have no competing financial, professional, or personal interest that might have influenced the performance or presentation of the work described in this manuscript.