COVID-19 (Coronavirus) & Special Needs Families

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COVID-19 or Coronavirus

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard about the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. I am in a unique position because not only have I heard about it, but I work in the healthcare and senior living industry, and have for the last 30 years. For the last 18 days and the foreseeable future, I will eat, sleep and breathe COVID-19. Surely news channels will sensationalize for ratings, but even when you know the facts — it’s scary.

Because it’s a new virus, we are still learning new information about how it spreads. Right now, the main mode of transmission is thought to be person-to-person spread, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Special Needs Families have Unique Challenges

Everyone knows how incredibly dangerous Coronavirus is for those over the age of 60, or those who have compromised immune systems. Most say that it’s not particularly dangerous for kids, however, as a special needs parent, it’s a different story. Many of our kids have co-morbid conditions. Moreover, we worry that our children won’t know or remember all of the right steps to wash hands. Or, like my kiddo the sensory seeker, I worry she won’t shy away from hugs in the name of social distancing. I also worry that my kids might share lunch items with their friends at school.

So, after heading to the grocery store for basic staples — preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best (and mostly, to find toilet paper!) — I decided to put together a story board with the steps for hand washing and social distancing. We’ve reviewed, practiced the steps, and I continue to model proper hand washing technique and social distancing at home.

I also reached out to my daughters’ schools to understand what measures they are taking to limit COVID-19 exposure.

Click to get your copy of Questions to Ask your Child’s School about COVID-19 Preparedness.

18 days ago, the prevention plan information I received from my school district was limited. Today, I’m happy to say that they are communicating with parents daily through an automated call system and their district website. They’ve been working in conjunction with the local and state health departments to ensure they are doing all they can to prevent the virus from entering the schools.

Questions to ask your child’s school to learn how they are preparing for COVID-19

What is the organization’s COVID-19 plan?

Simple enough. You should expect to hear that they have a plan in place to prevent exposure, such as limiting or screening visitors. More over, there should be a plan to react if and when an exposure occurs. I’d recommend asking whether or not they’ve reviewed the sick leave policy in a way that discourages sick employees from working.

What kind of COVID-19 training has been provided for staff?

At a minimum it should be how to recognize and report symptoms, and the basics of infection control such as more frequent cleaning of high-touch areas.

Have cleaning and disinfection efforts been increased?

It’s so important to increase the frequency of cleaning high-touch areas such as desks, chairs, and public restrooms. Cleaning frequency should be based on two important factors: (1) The probability that a surface is contaminated with pathogens, and (2) The potential for exposure. Doorknobs are a good example.

How are drinking fountains being handled?

If they can’t be off-limits, perhaps cleaning frequency can be increased. Or, perhaps kids use a disposable cup to get water.

What efforts are being made to limit food-sharing among students?

Many schools have strict no-sharing policies in place because of food allergies, but it’s good to check.

What efforts are being made to reinforce good hand hygiene with students?

This is so important, especially for kids who have intellectual disabilities.

What is the school doing to teach social distancing?

My kid is a hugger. She LOVES to hug people. It’s been a challenge to teach her to replace hugging with a fist-bump, and her teacher is working with me to reinforce that at school.

How are field trips or outings being handled?

Our district recently suspended all outside activities.

What’s being done to clean and disinfect the bus?

Lots and lots of hands makes areas of the bus high-touch — think about handrails, backs and tops of vinyl seats.

Admittedly, COVID-19 has made this is an uneasy time for everyone. With the right tools, good hand and cough hygiene, proper cleaning products and a whole lot of patience, we can do our best to stay healthy. Most important, when a local or state agency says to stay home, listen. Distancing ourselves from large groups goes a long way toward prevention.

So, head out to the store, get some toilet paper, a good book, or plan a game night with the family. Maybe make some halfway cookies. And, when you get home – wash your hands.


COVID-19: Practical Tips to Prepare your home
4 (free) Social Stories to support COVID-19 Safety: Handwashing, Social Distancing, Cough Etiquette, Masks
10 Questions to Ask the School about their COVID-19 Plan

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