World Autism Awareness Week 2021 - The Lockdown Survey

Browse the advice, feedback and messages of support from our community of professionals and parents.

In February, we got in touch with the AET community to ask about their experiences. Amongst others, we heard from:

  • Working parents of SEND children
  • Stay at home parents of SEND children
  • Educational professionals
  • Parent and education professionals

THANK YOU – we’d like to thank everyone who took the time to answer our questions in this survey. We has responses from over 500 participants and it was enlightening to review. Unfortunately, we can’t include them all on here, but we’d love to hear more of your comments. Tweet us or tag us on Facebook to continue the conversation… 

Lockdown statistics from the National Autistic Society:

  • Seven in ten parents of autistic children said their child had difficulty understanding or completing school work, and around half said their child’s academic progress suffered.
  • Compared to the general public, autistic people in June and July were:
    • Seven times more likely to be chronically lonely.
    • Six times more likely to have low life satisfaction.

Take a look at our survey highlights to find out why this might be, and get tips from parents and educational professionals for moving forward:


Autism Awareness Week - Lockdown Survey - Messages from the AET community


What are your top tips for supporting your autistic child or students with home-schooling?

Autism Awareness Week - Lockdown Survey 2

  • Patience, flexibility and humour go a long way. If a task is a challenge leave it and come back to it when the child is ready.
  • Be kind to yourself, teachers are not expecting parents to do their job, anything you can do is a bonus.
    Use the First, Next , Then process so your child can see that there is going to be an end.
    Don’t forget those important life skills such as holding a conversation, eating together, cooking – they are important too!
  • We have kept contact with parents through phone check ups and e mails and forwarded any supportive materials we have been offered from agencies. We are going to have a group parents informal coffee meeting prior to return to full school. Staff have been on Transition courses to look at return to school.
  • keep at it, small regular doses Something old something new, something borrowed etc.
  • Small bursts of work.
  • Routine. Understand focus time limits. Find best interest and adapt. Not to feel pressured to get work done.
  • Share your own vulnerabilities / daily challenges so that children can see that they are not the only ones getting annoyed or tired, and try to laugh about it together.
Praise, making learning meaningful and fun at the same time and knowing the children you are supporting
  • Give choice in how they work.
  • Create rewards for small achievements.
  • Dress in school uniform. Be extra patient. Walk away when you need a break!
  • Learning outside, life skills, daily application of functional literacy and numeracy skills e.g. measuring and weighing for baking a cake.
Mistakes are allowed.
  • Consistency
    Lots of support


What does your autistic child, or your autistic students, find most challenging, and what adjustments have you made to support them?


  • Sharing and communicating. We do one to one like bucket time or 5 minutes alone with an allocated staff.
  • Unexplained changes – prepare them as much as possible
    Sensory overload – body break and sensory diet
    Anxiety – key worker.
  • Most of my autistic students are thriving working from home without the social pressure.
I think personalisation is the key- every one is different.
  • Hard for some to reduce screen time.
    agreeing the programme with the child is important.
  • Deadlines, not being able to pause and rewind live lessons, not being able to ask for help or go at a slower pace – or when does ask for help feels that everyone can see.
    Seeing friends within lockdown guidelines.
    Getting outside
  • Change – and there has been a lot of that.
  • Talking in front of the other students in a video meeting. I use a Jamboard for students to add their comments and they can access it after the lesson to recap the comments that were made.
  • Home is a safe place/haven, not school!
    We use fun educational apps on the iPad rather than the set school work and do the work when it suits us not when the school timetable dictates.
The constant changes have been the most challenging. School closures with no notice, doing school work at home (home is home, school is school). Keeping to a routine as much as possible has been most beneficial.
  • Increased patience
  • Our child found having a sibling at home during the school closures, different and therefore, this took time to re-adjust to the new teaching.
  • Online lessons move too quick, give them processing time.

Some autistic children and young people thrive in lockdown. Have you experienced any benefits of home-schooling?

Autism Awareness Week - Lockdown Survey 3

  • No social pressure.
  • Parents do what they are capable of to support so some children have come back with more speech and language. Handwriting has been practices 1:1
  • Fewer meltdowns, more independent with dressing/ self care. Better sleep. Less anxiety.
  • I got online tuition in maths and my son has improved exponentially.
  • Some children find home schooling quieter and have less stimulation visually.
Many! Less demand and being overwhelmed with sensory stresses.
  • No anxiety about getting up and getting into school, no anxiety about the bullies.
  • Although not learning at home, our SEN children in school are thriving as a result of smaller class sizes and more adult focused time at their level
  • He likes to work on one subject per day rather than swapping between subjects.
  • Half of my pupils greatly benefit from lockdown as social interactions and consequent anxiety is now no longer there.
No detentions, isolation or exclusion. No daily humiliation at being the student with most bad behaviour points shared with the whole class. No sensory melt down. No conflict with staff and rules
  • I enjoy his company. I am appreciating how very kind he can be.
  • Bonding with family members
    Learning life skills such as making their own bed, cooking skills and gardening
    Being creative, having more time and less restrictive and personalised to child and what they want to do.
    Less pressure. less time pressure

What are your general observations on how your autistic child, or students, have adapted to home-schooling?

  • I am incredibly proud. It is very intense, very challenging but I think with my support and involvement he has worked better than previous lock downs and we have been able to find a routine which has finally worked.
  • some have thrived others avoid – it depends on parental dedication.
  • He seems to stim a lot more and sit in funny ways which I would image they don’t encourage at school.
  • Did not adapted well. Cant concentrate or differentiate between when its time to sit and study while at home
  • It was a novelty at first but soon his frustrations were evident to parents although his concerns were not shared with me during regular contact.
It has been a disaster. No home-schooling is taking place despite earlier efforts to support it.
  • Struggling lots of background distractions and the ability to leave without needing to ask permission
It has made me very aware of how much my son has depended on the structure and routine of school. It has made me slightly worried about how he will manage if he goes to college.
  • Girl more comfortable and can escape to her room/toys etc during breaks. Boy wants screen instead of books etc and explodes when given screen boundaries.
  • Mixed. Support for parents is vital.
  • Communication speech has diminished.

Education professionals, do you have any advice you can give to parents who are supporting their autistic child(ren) to learn from home?

Autism Awareness Week - Lockdown Survey 1

  • You will always be their parent, being their teacher is temporary.
  • Ask questions of your SENCo and class teacher.
    Ask for extra hardware from school to support the learning
    Have very set times for learning, identify when learning starts and stops in a day.
  • Do not be hard on yourselves, you are doing fine in troubling times
Make them feel loved and safe
  • Remember that if you are not feeling ok, that you are not in a position to learn. Taking the pressure off yourself and your children and deciding together what feels genuinely manageable and ‘ok’ is important (and this may change from day to day).
  • Be kind towards yourself, take regular breaks, go outside as much as possible.
    Look on the internet – YouTube, Facebook etc for support groups and suggestions on strategies.
Be realistic about expectations and what to focus on / what to drop.
  • Go with child’s interests
  • Happiness, security and physical development are a lot more important than numeracy, literacy and government targets.


Parents, do you have any advice for teachers and education professionals remotely supporting autistic pupils?

  • Keep checking in with parents, even if things appear to be going well.
  • More adapted learning one size does not fit all.
  • Instructions can be lost in video lessons – clear written lists can help.
  • Send more practical activities and don’t obsess about getting stuff handed in.
  • Try to understand the child before you judge. Be patient and don’t give up.
Often the parents need someone to reach out to them, I have been contacted by school on a few occasions but a well being call is so important. Can you imagine how nice it would feel to be contacted and someone to empathise with your situation and to just check in and listen. Hugely powerful. I have also found the chat function on Microsoft Teams hugely beneficial for dropping a quick line to a teacher – much more accessible than waiting for an email. 
  • Support these children’s evolving friendship needs
  • Check in with the YP (young person) and ask if they need things explained a different way.
  • Do not bombard them with too much information


Head back to the Autism Awareness Week Page to explore our resources:

Autism Awareness Week




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