Autistic youths’ experiences with emergency remote learning during COVID-19: a perspective on well-being

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Batta, Millie
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta.: University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education
School closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a shift to emergency remote learning, particularly affecting autistic students who experienced disruptions to school-based supports and social interactions. This mixed-methods study explored the experiences and perceptions of autistic youths and their mothers of emergency remote learning during the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic (March to June 2020), with a focus on well-being. Data was gathered from nine autistic youth (ages 10 to 17), alongside their mothers, through questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. Autistic youths and their mothers reported that remote schooling came with a spectrum of benefits and challenges. The youths’ experiences of remote schooling are described through three common themes: (1) social, (2) emotional, and (3) academic. In considering the interactions between the youth and their context, their challenges of remote schooling seemed to be influenced by the anxiety levels, severity of social responsiveness restrictions, and their comfort with technology. Limited social opportunities, teaching supports, and classroom structure seemed to negatively impact the youths’ well-being and supportive relationships. The use of technology did not substitute in-person social interactions during remote schooling, but did offer youths an alternative approach for connecting with others. Professionals who work with autistic youths may benefit from understanding their remote schooling experiences using a thriving framework to better support their social, emotional, and educational needs during the recovery from the pandemic and beyond.
autism spectrum disorder , COVID-19 , emergency remote learning , online learning , technology , adolescence , social engagement , well-being , thriving , supportive relationships