A candid conversation: Getting real about COVID and Intellectual/ Developmental Disabilities
By Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio | March 30, 2021, 9:43 p.m.
At Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio, our Education team has programming specific to young people, parents, professionals and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Unfortunately, individuals with disabilities are often left out of important conversations about relationships and sexual health. This exclusion yields many negative effects; creating a gap in the way they are included in conversations, and how often they are considered when problems arise.
Problems like an unprecedented pandemic.
We see people with disabilities being disproportionately affected by the social impacts of COVID, as their access to the world around them is restricted. We asked people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to share those experiences with us.
How has COVID affected you?
“Not being able to see extended family at annual gatherings. Not seeing friends and certainly not doing activities with them.”
“We have been at home for year. Day program can't take us back yet because we need too much help to distance and can't keep a mask on.”
“It has affected us in every way. Mental health has been worse for my whole family. We are more stressed. Our worlds have gone smaller because of less interaction with people physically. Online is not the same.”
“[My client] has been isolated in her group home for 12 months. She sees only her 2 housemates, caregivers, and managers in person. She saw her mother during her week long hospitalization but no one is permitted in her home to visit.”
What is something you want people to know about living in a pandemic with an intellectual or developmental disability?
“The change to schedule, expectations, annual events, seeing people close to us - all of these things were extremely hard on my son with Autism. Remote learning was not conducive to him at all and the loss of school and therapy time caused regression.”
“It’s hard. I’m really bored. I can’t give hugs to friends. I can’t go to church. I HATE zoom. My transition plan [a change in a person’s routine or environment] couldn’t be completed. I can’t go many places.”
“… Thankfully I live with my family who is always there to help me understand what’s right and wrong (trust science and follow the rules!) and I also have a therapist I talk to every week. But someone else with a disability who doesn’t have family around them during this time would probably be struggling badly. We need to do a better job taking care of all people during a global pandemic and not forget some of us need more patience, explanations and reassurance than others.”
As we approach year 2 of COVID, what could be done better for people with I/DD?
“To be more inclusive even if it is virtual.”
“Allow all of us to be vaccinated.”
“Online support groups, online classes (including hobbies like arts and craft), maybe as vaccines are available a socially distanced outdoor activity that is limited in number.”
“Help with isolation and lack of socialization. Covid safe group outings like weekly hikes at different trails around town. Or frisbee golf or pickle ball or skiing.”
“Tablets for us to carry around. Easy access to transportation services. Jobs that we can do from home.”
What changes can you, your organizations and our communities make moving forward?