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Opinion
Clara Ferreira Marques

Children With Autism Need a Post-Covid Boost

Lockdowns and virtual school have hampered diagnostics and support. We must close the gap.

An elementary school classroom in Naples, Italy, that stayed open during lockdown to help students with disabilities.

An elementary school classroom in Naples, Italy, that stayed open during lockdown to help students with disabilities.

Photographer: Salvatore Laporta/KONTROLAB/LightRocket/Getty

In retrospect, the autism warning signs were all there. A calm, easy baby from birth, around the age of two my middle son appeared to stall. He had a magpie eye for complicated words and entire Peppa Pig episodes, repetitions I now recognize as echolalia. He had no interest in role-playing games and hated getting his hands dirty. Eventually, his hand-and-leg-flapping — so jerky that we thought he was having convulsions — triggered alarm bells, visits to the neurologist and some answers.

I wonder today how that might have played out had it been 2020, with no school or playgroup to highlight differences, longer waiting lists for health services in many places, and plenty of Covid-19 restrictions. We might have waited months to be referred to a specialist, and not accessed speech and occupational therapy until even later, delaying support that has been instrumental in his development into a cheery middle-schooler.