Respite and connection: Autistic adults' reflections upon nature and well-being during the Covid-19 pandemic

Samantha Friedman*, Roan Noble, Stephanie Archer, Jenny Gibson, Claire Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns provided opportunities to engage and reconnect with nature, with many people noting associated benefits to well-being. Research from the pandemic period has largely focused on the way neurotypical or general populations experienced nature; less is known about how autistic people used nature to support well-being during this time. In this qualitative survey study of 127 autistic adults in the United Kingdom, we used reflexive thematic analysis of text box responses to develop two themes: respite in nature and connecting amid widespread disconnection. For some autistic adults during the pandemic, nature provided physical distance from others or from crowded homes, enabling them to use nature to experience relief from stress. In addition, some participants felt more psychologically connected to nature itself during the pandemic, while for others, nature served as a way of connecting with others during a potentially isolating time. These findings have implications for autistic people and their families and carers who may want to seek out nature-based activities to support well-being in the wake of the pandemic. Lay abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns provided opportunities to spend time in nature, with many people reporting that this benefitted their well-being. However, existing research from the pandemic period has focused on the way general populations experienced nature; less is known about how autistic people used nature to support their well-being during the pandemic. We created a survey that invited autistic adults living in the United Kingdom to reply to text box questions. A total of 127 people responded to our survey; we analysed their responses using a method called reflexive thematic analysis and developed themes based on patterns among all the responses. We developed two themes: respite in nature and connecting amid widespread disconnection. For some autistic adults during the pandemic, nature provided physical distance from others or from crowded homes, which helped them reduce their stress. In addition, some participants felt more psychologically connected to nature itself during the pandemic, while for others, nature served as a way of connecting with others during a potentially isolating time. These findings are important for autistic people and their families and carers who may want to seek out nature-based activities to support well-being in the wake of the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Article number136236132311664
Pages (from-to)2483-2495
Number of pages13
JournalAutism
Volume27
Issue number8
Early online date27 Apr 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

Cite this