Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders: The SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic Implications

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Developmental Neuroscience".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (5 December 2021) | Viewed by 29963

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Child Psychiatry and Psychopharmacology, IRCCS Stella MarisFoundation, 56018 Pisa, Italy; University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy
Interests: Autism; Neurodevelopmental Disorders; Psychology; Psychoterapy; Neurosciences; Precision Medicine
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The last months have been characterized by a new challenge known as SARS-CoV-2 or, as the general public is more familiar with, COVID-19. Our lives have changed dramatically due to the emergency of this virus, and the ways in which we work on a daily basis have also been modified. Among neuropsychiatric disorders, those with autism spectrum conditions (ASDs) have suffered a strong impact in terms of delays or interruptions in diagnosis and treatment settings (i.e., telemedicine) . The effects of COVID-19 on children, adolescents, and adults with ASD have been heterogeneous. This Special Issue titled “Autism and COVID-19: Issues and Opportunities” aims to present a collection of studies detailing the widest experiences possible in the field of autism and COVID-19. Authors are invited to submit cutting-edge research, case reports, survey results, and reviews on the following topics: screening, diagnosis, intervention/treatment, healthcare services, quality of life, psychological stress, emotional and behavioral modifications, adaptive behavior, psychopathology, sleep and/or nutrition changes, telemedicine, public policies, and ethical questions.

Dr. Antonio Narzisi
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Autism
  • Surveys
  • Children
  • Adults

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 195 KiB  
Editorial
Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders: The SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic Implications
by Antonio Narzisi, Francisco Alcantud-Marin, Yurena Alonso-Esteban, Roberta Battini, Chiara Cantiani, Eugenia Conti, Laura Fusar-Poli, Flavia Lecciso, Annalisa Levante, Luigi Mazzone, Annarita Milone, Valentina Riva, Martina Siracusano and Eugenio Aguglia
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(2), 269; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13020269 - 6 Feb 2023
Viewed by 1593
Abstract
The Special Issue (SI) “Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders: The SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic Implications” is an interesting project that adopted a scientific point of view with important implications in clinical and practical fields [...] Full article

Research

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12 pages, 483 KiB  
Article
The Psychological Impact of the COVID-19 Lockdown: A Comparison between Caregivers of Autistic and Non-Autistic Individuals in Italy
by Laura Fusar-Poli, Miriam Martinez, Teresa Surace, Valeria Meo, Federica Patania, Chiara Avanzato, Maria Salvina Signorelli and Eugenio Aguglia
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(1), 116; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12010116 - 15 Jan 2022
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1819
Abstract
The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted the daily routine of the population worldwide, including autistic people and their caregivers, with severe consequences on mental health. On one hand, the reduced social contacts and the interruption of outpatient and daycare services during the lockdown have [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 outbreak has disrupted the daily routine of the population worldwide, including autistic people and their caregivers, with severe consequences on mental health. On one hand, the reduced social contacts and the interruption of outpatient and daycare services during the lockdown have represented a real challenge for autistic people and their caregivers. On the other hand, confinement has allowed individuals to spend more time pursuing their interests and stay home with their family members without feeling the pressure of social expectations. The present study aimed to compare the levels of personal wellbeing, family distress, insomnia, and resilience between caregivers of autistic people and caregivers of people with other neurodevelopmental, psychiatric, or relational disabilities. A web survey was completed by 383 participants, of which 141 were primary caregivers of autistic people. We did not find any significant difference between caregivers of autistic and non-autistic people in any of the considered psychological variables. Lower age of the autistic family member and lower resilience levels were significantly associated with higher individual distress in the group of caregivers of autistic people. Our findings do not corroborate the hypothesis that caregivers of autistic individuals have had more severe consequences than other caregivers during the lockdown. However, they confirm the importance of promoting resilient coping strategies in autistic people and their caregivers. Full article
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12 pages, 482 KiB  
Article
Parental Stress and Disability in Offspring: A Snapshot during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Martina Siracusano, Assia Riccioni, Leonardo Emberti Gialloreti, Eugenia Segatori, Lucrezia Arturi, Michelangelo Vasta, Maria Cristina Porfirio, Monica Terribili, Cinzia Galasso and Luigi Mazzone
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(8), 1040; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11081040 - 5 Aug 2021
Cited by 17 | Viewed by 3443
Abstract
Parenting a child with a disability, such as neurodevelopmental disorders and genetic syndromes, implies a high level of stress. During the COVID-19 outbreak—as a period implying additional challenges—few studies have specifically investigated caregivers’ distress among neurodevelopmental disabilities. The objective of the study is [...] Read more.
Parenting a child with a disability, such as neurodevelopmental disorders and genetic syndromes, implies a high level of stress. During the COVID-19 outbreak—as a period implying additional challenges—few studies have specifically investigated caregivers’ distress among neurodevelopmental disabilities. The objective of the study is to investigate whether during the COVID-19 pandemic, the level of parental stress differs between four disability groups including neurodevelopmental disorders (autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)) and genetic syndromes (Rett syndrome (RTT), Sotos syndrome (SS)) in comparison to families with typical development offspring (TD). In total, 220 Italian parents of children affected by neurodevelopmental disabilities (74 ASD, 51 ADHD, 34 SS, 21 RTT, 40 TD; age M 9.4 ± SD 4.2) underwent a standardized evaluation for stress related to parenting through the self-report questionnaire, Parental Stress Index-Short Form (PSI-SF). The main findings show greater levels of parental stress—mainly linked to child behavioral characteristics rather than parental sense of competence—in parents of children affected by a disability in comparison to children with typical development. This study highlights the need to support not only individuals with special needs but also their own caregivers: core figures in the management and outcome of children disorders. Full article
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16 pages, 1116 KiB  
Article
Psychological Impact of COVID-19 Outbreak on Families of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Typically Developing Peers: An Online Survey
by Annalisa Levante, Serena Petrocchi, Federica Bianco, Ilaria Castelli, Costanza Colombi, Roberto Keller, Antonio Narzisi, Gabriele Masi and Flavia Lecciso
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 808; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060808 - 18 Jun 2021
Cited by 33 | Viewed by 5412
Abstract
Background: When COVID-19 was declared as a pandemic, many countries imposed severe lockdowns that changed families’ routines and negatively impacted on parents’ and children’s mental health. Several studies on families with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) revealed that lockdown increased the difficulties [...] Read more.
Background: When COVID-19 was declared as a pandemic, many countries imposed severe lockdowns that changed families’ routines and negatively impacted on parents’ and children’s mental health. Several studies on families with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) revealed that lockdown increased the difficulties faced by individuals with ASD, as well as parental distress. No studies have analyzed the interplay between parental distress, children’s emotional responses, and adaptive behaviors in children with ASD considering the period of the mandatory lockdown. Furthermore, we compared families with children on the spectrum and families with typically developing (TD) children in terms of their distress, children’s emotional responses, and behavioral adaptation. Methods: In this study, 120 parents of children aged 5–10 years (53 with ASD) participated. Results: In the four tested models, children’s positive and negative emotional responses mediated the impact of parental distress on children’s playing activities. In the ASD group, parents reported that their children expressed more positive emotions, but fewer playing activities, than TD children. Families with children on the spectrum reported greater behavioral problems during the lockdown and more parental distress. Conclusions: Our findings inform the interventions designed for parents to reduce distress and to develop coping strategies to better manage the caregiver–child relationship. Full article
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15 pages, 704 KiB  
Article
Effects of COVID-19 Lockdown on the Emotional and Behavioral Profiles of Preschool Italian Children with and without Familial Risk for Neurodevelopmental Disorders
by Chiara Cantiani, Chiara Dondena, Elena Capelli, Elena M. Riboldi, Massimo Molteni and Valentina Riva
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(4), 477; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11040477 - 9 Apr 2021
Cited by 22 | Viewed by 4501
Abstract
The effects of COVID-19 containment measures on the emotional and behavioral development of preschoolers are not clear. We investigated them within an ongoing longitudinal project including typically developing children (TD) and children at high familial risk for neurodevelopmental disorders (HR-NDD) who were potentially [...] Read more.
The effects of COVID-19 containment measures on the emotional and behavioral development of preschoolers are not clear. We investigated them within an ongoing longitudinal project including typically developing children (TD) and children at high familial risk for neurodevelopmental disorders (HR-NDD) who were potentially more vulnerable. The study included ninety children aged 2–6 years (TD = 48; HR-NDD = 42). Before the emergency phase (T0), all children received a clinical assessment, including the parent questionnaire Child Behavior Checklist for Ages 1.5–5 (CBCL 1.5–5). The same questionnaire was filled out again during the emergency (T1), together with an ad-hoc questionnaire investigating environmental factors characterizing the specific period. Changes in the CBCL profiles between T0 and T1 were evaluated. Overall, irrespective of familial risk, the average T-scores on specific CBCL scales at T1 were higher than at T0. Associations emerged between delta scores reflecting worsening scores on specific CBCL scales and clinical and environmental factors. Our results confirmed the negative impact of the lockdown on preschool children’s emotional/behavioral profiles, and highlight the need for strategic approaches in the age range of 2–6 years, especially for more susceptible children owing to environmental factors and pre-existing emotional problems. Full article
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15 pages, 1642 KiB  
Article
Behavioural and Emotional Changes during COVID-19 Lockdown in an Italian Paediatric Population with Neurologic and Psychiatric Disorders
by Eugenia Conti, Giuseppina Sgandurra, Giacomo De Nicola, Tommaso Biagioni, Silvia Boldrini, Eleonora Bonaventura, Bianca Buchignani, Stefania Della Vecchia, Francesca Falcone, Caterina Fedi, Marisa Gazzillo, Gemma Marinella, Cristina Mazzullo, Jessica Micomonaco, Gloria Pantalone, Andrea Salvati, Gianluca Sesso, Valerio Simonelli, Greta Tolomei, Irene Troiano, Giovanni Cioni, Gabriele Masi, Filippo Muratori, Annarita Milone and Roberta Battiniadd Show full author list remove Hide full author list
Brain Sci. 2020, 10(12), 918; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10120918 - 27 Nov 2020
Cited by 59 | Viewed by 6729
Abstract
On 11 March 2020, a national lockdown was imposed by the Italian government to contain the spread of COVID19 disease. This is an observational longitudinal study conducted at Fondazione Stella Maris (FSM), Italy to investigate lockdown-related emotional and behavioural changes in paediatric neuropsychiatric [...] Read more.
On 11 March 2020, a national lockdown was imposed by the Italian government to contain the spread of COVID19 disease. This is an observational longitudinal study conducted at Fondazione Stella Maris (FSM), Italy to investigate lockdown-related emotional and behavioural changes in paediatric neuropsychiatric population. Families having children (1.5–18 years) with neuropsychiatric disorders referred to FSM have been contacted and proposed to fulfil two online questionnaires (General questionnaire and Child Behaviour Check List (CBCL)) to (i) compare (paired two-sample t-tests) the CBCL scores during lockdown with previous ones, and (ii) investigate the influence (multiple linear regression models) of variables such as age, diagnosis grouping (neurological, neurodevelopmental, emotional, and behavioural disorders) and financial hardship. One hundred and forty-one parents fulfilled the questionnaires. Anxiety and somatic problems increased in 1.5–5 years subpopulation, while obsessive-compulsive, post-traumatic and thought problems increased in 6–18 years subpopulation. In the regression models, younger age in the 1.5–5 years subpopulation resulted as “protective” while financial hardship experienced by families during lockdown was related to psychiatric symptoms increasing in the 6–18 years subpopulation. Some considerations, based on first clinical impressions, are provided in text together with comments in relation to previous and emerging literature on the topic. Full article
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Other

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12 pages, 485 KiB  
Systematic Review
A Systematic Review on the Impact of the Social Confinement on People with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Their Caregivers during the COVID-19 Pandemic
by Yurena Alonso-Esteban, María Fernanda López-Ramón, Verónica Moreno-Campos, Esperanza Navarro-Pardo and Francisco Alcantud-Marín
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(11), 1389; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11111389 - 22 Oct 2021
Cited by 22 | Viewed by 4566
Abstract
The COVID-19 pandemic had imposed a variety of containment measures on the general population for prolonged periods. Confinement has had, and still has, social, economic, educational, health, and psychological consequences on the entire population. Objective: In this article, a systematic search has been [...] Read more.
The COVID-19 pandemic had imposed a variety of containment measures on the general population for prolonged periods. Confinement has had, and still has, social, economic, educational, health, and psychological consequences on the entire population. Objective: In this article, a systematic search has been performed based on studies carried out since the beginning of the pandemic, regarding the impact of these containment measures on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD) population and their caregivers. Method: We consulted six databases (i.e., PubMed, Medline, Embase, Scopus, Web of Science, and Science Direct) and selected ten studies that met the inclusion criteria. The chosen studies have been classified according to their theoretical focus, methodology, and target population. Results: We found an increase in stress and a decrease in psychological well-being among individuals diagnosed with ASD (i.e., parents and caregivers). Additionally, in studies focused on children, youth, and adults with ASD diagnosis, the results are contradictory depending on variables such as age, ASD severity, or type of family structure. Conclusions: The results show that the consequences of quarantine and social confinement are quite contradictory and depend on variables such as age, ASD severity, and family features. Full article
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