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Saturday, August 22, 2020

Including Children with Developmental Disabilities in the COVID Equation

 In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. Those challenges get far more intense during disasters.  And coronavirus is proving to be the biggest disaster of all. Providing services is proving to be very difficult.

Children with developmental disabilities receive therapy and support from intervention services at specialized centers as well as in schools. Consistency and intensity of intervention is key. This is why children often continue to receive therapy during school vacations. COVID-19 related curtailment of services within the community and school closures limits the provision of continued intervention services, including that of home-based therapy. Video conferencing and telemedicine are being widely used to facilitate learning and therapy from home. However, children with impairments in communication, attention and/or coordination, require specific accommodations to participate and learn effectively.(Ingersoll and Berger 2015) Within the home environment, caregivers may struggle to provide the same level of academic support without the training and expertise of an educator. Children with certain developmental disabilities like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may also lack the cognitive flexibility to understand that parents are trying to play the role of their teachers or therapists and thus be less compliant. Further, families with limited access to technological infrastructure and the internet, risk being cut off from support services.
When planning online learning, educators should accommodate children with developmental disabilities with targeted strategies to address their difficulties. For example, children with ASD might require visual schedules, specific communication strategies and additional behavioral support to participate effectively during learning activities. Therapy and/or educational packs containing these materials can be made available online for parents to print or be mailed to families. For children with extremely challenging behaviors, school/center-based care should be made available as far as possible to provide much needed respite for caregivers and their families.
Ingersoll, B., & Berger, N. I. (2015). Parent engagement with a telehealth-based parent-mediated intervention program for children with autism spectrum disorders: Predictors of program use and parent outcomes. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 17(10), e227.