To be sure, it’s a loaded question! And the possibility that children with disabilities might be more prone to infection by the novel coronavirus ripping across the globe right now, or more susceptible to the disease it causes, COVID-19, is especially scary. Parents have a lot of questions. We want to answer as many of them as we possibly can, starting with the biggest: Is my child at greater risk from COVID-19?
First and foremost, it depends on your child’s disability. COVID-19 is primarily a disease that presents with mild to moderate symptoms (according to the CDC), including runny nose, coughing, and fever. But those “mild” symptoms include “mild” cases of pneumonia in up to half of cases. Victims of COVID-19 say they were struggling for air. That means if your child suffers from a lung-related disability, they might be at greater risk than others.
The biggest concern is the extent of your child’s disability and what that might mean if doctors and nurses are forced to start “rationing” care in the event they run low on supplies, like ventilators. Should this happen — and it seems inevitable — then doctors will be forced to decide who receives one and who does not. That means those who are most likely to survive the illness will likely receive the best standard of care.
But that’s just conjecture.
For now, it’s best not to think about the worst case scenario. It makes more sense to think about how each of us can help prevent the worst case scenario. That means treating school closures not like an unexpected vacation, but the prevention technique that it is. Keep your children home. Sure, let them out in the backyard to play or toss a ball around, but avoid parks or areas where large numbers of people are gathered.
Right now, people who have never even hiked before are crowded the Appalachian Trail and state and local parks. Proceed with caution.
If your child is living with a disability, focus on keeping them healthy and happy. That means maintaining a routine while they’re stuck at home. A nightly curfew and morning wake-up call are very important. Make sure they aren’t looking at screens all day long. Reading, music, or family activities should all be a part of their day. Try to include educational activities if the school hasn’t provided any work.
Continue to maintain good nutrition. Vitamin C and Vitamin D are critical to keeping a strong immune system. Prepare a meal each night if possible, and be certain to get enough fruits and vegetables into their diets. This is a trying time for all of us, but we can get through it!