issues and experts

SFU researchers urge more support for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder during pandemic

November 12, 2020

Families caring for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are already at risk of experiencing high levels of stress and strain due to the behavioural and learning challenges their children face. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this situation due to families being isolated and cut off from essential government support services.

Preliminary findings of a study by SFU and ACT – Autism Community Training (ACT), which surveyed 238 caregivers of children with ASD in B.C., found that anxiety, tantrums, daily routine and sleep quality have worsened in the majority of children during the pandemic. More than a third of parents report safety concerns for their family and almost 10 per cent have considered putting their child into care.

Psychology researcher Grace Iarocci, director of SFU’s Autism and Development Disorders Lab, is urging the provincial government to better support the needs of children with special needs or risk devastating consequences.

“We knew that families of children with ASD were under tremendous stress, but as researchers we are shocked by the severity of the pressures they were experiencing even before the pandemic and how much worse it has become,” says Iarocci. “Our hope is that the provincial government will pay attention to this data and listen to families and act to provide the support families need.”

The findings of the study – funded by Mitacs, Kids Brain Health Network and ACT – were presented today at a Kids Brain Health Network conference.


Grace Iarocci, professor of psychology, SFU's Autism and Development Disorders Lab  
604.812.4248 |


Matt Kieltyka,  SFU Communications & Marketing 
236.880.2187 |

Simon Fraser University 
Communications & Marketing | SFU Media Experts Directory 


As Canada’s engaged university, SFU works with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change. We deliver a world-class education with lifelong value that shapes change-makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities—Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey—SFU has eight faculties that deliver 193 undergraduate degree programs and 127 graduate degree programs to more than 37,000 students. The university now boasts more than 165,000 alumni residing in 143 countries.