AUTHORS: Polónyiová, K., Belica, I., Celušáková, H., Janšáková, K., Kopčíková, M., Szapuová, Ž., Ostatníková, D.

ABSTRACT: The aim of this research was to compare the mental health of families with children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or typically developing children, during the first and the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak in Slovakia. The study is mainly focused on the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress among the parents and maladaptive behavior or sleep disturbances of their children. Our research sample consisted of 332 caregivers, 155 of which have children with autism spectrum disorder; 179 surveyed during the first wave and 153 during the second wave. Extensive online parent questionnaire was created, including demographic and specific topic–related questions; Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale–42 questionnaire; and two subscales of Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales—internalizing and externalizing maladaptive behavior. During the first wave, high levels of anxiety were found in parents of autism spectrum disorder children. During the second wave, all parents experienced increased levels of anxiety, stress, and depression, but especially severe for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder. Internalizing maladaptive behavior of children with autism spectrum disorder grew significantly between the waves. Parental depression, anxiety, and stress positively correlated with maladaptive behavior in both autism spectrum disorder and neurotypical children, suggesting a need for therapy options for whole families.

Autism, 2022