The COVID-19 pandemic brought forward unparalleled disruptions and challenges to society. Children, youth and young adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) and their families faced additional unique obstacles during the public health crisis. A recent article published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care found that youth with NDD tend to have higher rates of existing comorbidities and chronic health conditions, resulting in increased chances of poor physical and mental health outcomes. Therefore, this group is five times more likely to be infected and four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the general population.
The public health measures implemented during the pandemic also came with unintended negative experiences and consequences for youth with NDD. Measures such as lockdowns, social distancing, mask-wearing, isolation and more were intended to help stop the spread of COVID-19. However, they also caused interruptions in care and therapies such as physiotherapy, speech therapy and mental health counseling. Such disruptions have been linked to negative impacts on youth’s mental health and the well-being of their families.
“There is a lack of inclusivity in approaches and insufficient health emergency preparedness, planning and response for people with disabilities, especially children and youth with NDD,” said Ash Seth, MPP, MS, BS, coauthor of the article. “Understanding the experiences of children and youth and their parents and caregivers during public health emergencies can give insight to policymakers in developing policies and programs that will be more responsive to the unique needs of this population.”
Through interviewing parents and caregivers, the authors better understood the pandemic’s impact on youth with NDD and the daily implications felt by these individuals as well as their families and caregivers. The findings were separated into four areas of life: health, education, employment and risk management. Based on gathered results, considerations for policy advancement in the identified areas were made to better support Canada’s mental health needs in times of emergency. Such considerations included enhanced digital access to mental health services, financial investments in mental health distress centers and the process of creating a more inclusive approach to addressing the growing mental health needs of the population.
The full article, titled “Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Pan-Canadian Perspectives From Parents and Caregivers of Youth with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities” was published in the March/April special edition of the Journal of Pediatric Health Care and can be accessed here.
Apr. 24, 2023