Amid Covid19 Crisis-Don’t forget Children, Adults and Elderly with Disabilities

Raquel Regalado

For those of us with school-age children, ‘safer at home’ began the second that Miami Dade County Schools send children and teachers home. Since then we have been, if we are blessed to be able to, working from home while overseeing our children’s virtual lessons. It has been a difficult transition for teachers, students and parents as we all navigate various platforms, expectations and schedules while staying safe, healthy and sane.

But for children, adults and the elderly with disabilities who cling to structure and routine to make an already complicated world bearable this crisis has been devasting. For those in the autism spectrum who have difficulty dealing with transitions, change, social interactions and understanding abstract concepts like time, invisible enemies and wars, the social narrative has caused fear, anxiety, confusion and more obsessive behavior.   

Thankfully, early on UM/NSU CARD posted and emailed a social narrative in Spanish and English for the neurodivergent and followed up with other resources that included a social distancing poster which we posted on our door and review every time we leave our home undoing years of behavioral therapy. See also the Children’s Trust Website

Plagued by questions every ten minutes or so as to when the pandemic would be over, why people get sick and why parks are closed, last week during our spring break, I took Bela and Sebastian for long walks, practiced social distancing and spent the evenings searching through online resources that could help us navigate their ever-increasing anxiety.

Since the lesson plans and social stories available for COVID19 is very state/case-specific or overly broad, I had to alter what I found and tailor it to Miami Dade/Florida so that my hyper literal teens would not be confused. Every day this week I will be posting the COVID19 curriculum I created for them as well as pictures and videos of Bela and Sebas working on the same. This will be in addition to the schoolwork that they will have this week so don’t be surprised if they complain about all the work mom is making them do while ‘safer at home.’

But as we embark on week three of ‘safer at home’ it is a necessary addition to their workload since understanding what is going on and why it is happening will allow them to focus on schoolwork that currently appears to have no connection to reality.

Finally, I ask our elected officials and social/political institutions to consider the impact that their decisions, policies, messaging and text alerts have on children, adults, and the elderly with disabilities, their caregivers and service providers. Before this crisis those of us who advocate for this segment of the population focused on inclusion and services; during this crisis we continue to do the same and add that now more than ever our children, adults and elderly with disabilities need resources specifically tailored to their needs.

So please remember that the ‘we’ in ‘we’re all in this together’ includes people with neurological and/or physical disabilities. Consider that they are watching, listening and trying to cope like everyone else, and that while mostly silent and ‘safer at home’ this crisis and your messaging is impacting them.  So please as you roll out resources, post on social media and text their phones consider their sensibilities and needs. Specifically, let us know in advance so that we can opt out since your alerts could cause anxiety and confusion for those of us who are already ‘safer at home.’

For curriculum ideas, resource links and tips please follow me on FB @raquelregalado

Raquel Regalado is an attorney and former Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board Member.

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  1. At this time, my thoughts and prayers are with families whose children, youth and elderly have been cared for in the special needs programs at Easter Seals of South Florida. The programs for those with Alzheimer’s provide a loving , caring place where a person gets involved in socialization and most importantly is not isolated at home. it has been proven that those two factors make a huge difference in how a person’s disease progresses. Easter Seals is now closed and the family caregiver is challenged to cope at home.
    Same with a child with special needs who is not getting the benefit of their programs. The Culinary Arts program trains those that have an interest in food service and are able to get jobs in the food service industry when they graduate. For those of us that have to “shelter at home” and are complaining, think again of how fortunate we are to be functioning and safe. My prayers go out to all caregivers knowing the additional challenge they have . Stay safe, God bless us all.

  2. Thank you Marie, I agree. My daughter attends Easter Seals Culinary High School and they have been working around the clock to provided food and support to the elderly. On the high school side in particular, Bela and her friends are looking forward to the videos that Chef Wendy is making so we can follow them and send videos back. We are also going to be catching up with teachers and students by video. Easter Seals is an amazing organization read more here #StaySafe


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