The world has faced extreme challenges recently as Coronavirus (COVID-19) has undeniably affected the usual tasks and routines of our everyday lives. The stay-at-home orders and general social distancing policies which have been put in place in nearly every state nationwide, as well countries across the world, have impacted us in an enormous way, widely resulting in feelings of frustration and exasperation. Yet, the impact that COVID has had on lives of people in the U.S. and beyond is often an everyday reality for special families. Where the public is ready to return to normal, the challenges of isolation and infection precautions will continue to impact those with special needs. Moving forward, our hope is that a positive impact that may emerge from this difficult time may be that it helps others to better understand how conditions like Cerebral Palsy can and will continue to affect our friends and neighbors as we work to rebuild and begin a “new normal” in this country.
What parallels exist between COVID impacts and the impact on individuals with special needs, including those with Cerebral Palsy? Here are a few comparisons between the current predicament the nation is facing and the everyday worries and challenges those living with these conditions experience that will hopefully help improve understanding and awareness:
Whether due to limited mobility or as a result of compromised immune systems, being in public spaces is frequently not an option for many in the special needs community. What’s more, caretakers of those with special needs (including Cerebral Palsy) may also be limited in where they can comfortably remain due to the necessity of avoiding a carrier of any potentially harmful germs or illnesses.
For many individuals in the community, the impending termination of distancing requirements will not be relevant as their need to stay at home will continue indefinitely, COVID or no COVID. However, we are hopeful that this unparalleled time that has pushed the public into isolation may have expanded awareness regarding the near consistent isolation that members of the special needs community routinely face. What many have complained about having to deal with for a matter of weeks can be a lifetime reality for many members of the special needs community. We can do more to keep anyone from ever feeling isolated – and we should strive to do more in the weeks, months, and years to come!
The use of programs like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime have become essential during this pandemic as businesses and employees everywhere are attempting to continue to operate and work remotely. Similarly, these programs have also been helping friends and families communicate and keep in touch amidst the daunting social distancing restrictions. Ultimately, there has been an unprecedented reliance and dependence on applications and technology aimed at helping people communicate and connect with one another.
The reality for many individuals of the special need’s community is that assistive technology has been a lifelong necessity in order for them to reach out to the world. Depending upon the way in which Cerebral Palsy affects a person, assistive technology may be a critical to communicate and engage, both socially and professionally. While there are many people suddenly required to depend on technology to stay connected, the world may better understand why the expansion of assistive technology and innovation of new applications and opportunities is important to help improve communication options for all people in the community.
A significant emotional strain has been inflicted on many, if not most, Americans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, a financial strain has become a consequential burden for families nationwide to bear as well. The financial difficulties created during this time of hardship will not soon be remedied nor forgotten. However communities everywhere are uniting and working together to help rebuild society and the nation as a whole. With this in mind, it is relevant to also consider that some of how we feel during this time, others experience through the continuation of life-long financial worries and stress.
Families of special children all too often are faced with significant problems and uncertainties regarding finances. Many indispensable therapies and treatments for these conditions are necessary throughout the duration of life, which can often become costly and at times extremely difficult to afford. Charitable efforts have been utilized to provide relief and hope for those struggling financially, and have been and will continue to be a crucial resource for many during the struggles so many are currently facing. Unfortunately, as we emerge from these challenging times, there is likely to be a strain on charities and assistance organizations. Recognizing how critically important these infrastructures are for those who need them, especially now during a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis, will hopefully help to develop an appreciation for the assistance programs that so many are forced to depend upon.
It is hard to think of a time where the country has been more focused on the idea of healthcare and the available options if a loved one were to become sick. And for the first time, many individuals are concerned or even fearful about seeking medical help because of the high potential for being exposed to COVID-19, merely by entering a hospital or another facility visited by others that may have been exposed to the virus. Newborn babies were being held in isolation to limit the chance of infection spread. Grandparents in assisted living facilities were unable to see their children or their grandchildren because of the extreme precautions necessary to protect their health. Doctors and nurses everywhere are now required to wear masks at all times. These and many other extra defenses have been utilized to ensure safety like never seen before.
As it pertains to individuals living with special children, additional work is needed to ensure that illness, whether it be COVID-19 or another dangerous infection, does not harm them. That this virus is especially dangerous for society as a whole is tragic and should not be taken lightly. While we work to take care of those affected and protect those that are still in good health, it is essential to understand how much work is needed to insulate the most vulnerable in our society and how we can do more to secure facilities to prevent the spread of any illness moving forward.
The stay-at-home requirements that have been established to avoid people becoming sick, combined with the availability of scientific data on the infection rates surrounding COVID-19, have resulted in many Americans suddenly paying close attention to their surroundings and their general behaviors involving germs. There has been an increase in normal activities such as washing hands, covering the mouth when coughing/sneezing, and wiping down frequently touched surfaces at the end of each use. Additionally, there has been an increase in the number of meticulous precautions being taken, including but not limited to wearing glove/face masks in public, maintaining distances of at least 6 ft from other people, and mandatory testing for illness before being admitted into some establishments.
A consciousness surrounding hygiene and avoiding the spreading of illness is a welcome sign for many in the special needs community who often unfortunately have persistently compromised immune systems due to their condition. The more that people continue to exercise good, clean behaviors in homes, workspaces, dining areas, and general public spaces, the safer these places will be for everyone – especially those not able to fight off infections as well as others.
Many businesses have been required to learn how to conduct themselves in ways that they never have before in order to continue operating during this pandemic. Restaurants have resorted to Take-Out Only service, grocery stores and other markets have been required to limit the number of customers allowed in their stores at one time, and special hours have been created for high-risk community members. One of the most widely faced challenges which businesses are experiencing for perhaps the first time is the necessity to work remotely.
However, for those with special needs, adaptive equipment and assistive technology may be the only way for them to participate in the workforce at all. As Americans have found new ways to accomplish their job tasks, this same concept applies to those living with Cerebral Palsy, who may have already spent years using innovative tech such as tablets, eye-tracking software, and more to complete important tasks from home and perform effective work. By understanding how much is required to work remotely, many will now have a better appreciation for the daily stresses and strains already encountered by those facing limitations or challenges.
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has introduced our country, and the world, to a new reality. We believe there are unique parallels to how millions have been forced to live their lives and how those challenged individuals including those living with Cerebral Palsy, already experience every day. Life lessons are an important learning tool and we remain hopeful that coming out of this tragedy, people see the world differently and for the better.
Cerebral Palsy is a unique condition, impacting each person differently. During this time, we are still here to helping families access critical resources, information, and more to help children with Cerebral Palsy reach their full potential. For more information on how the MyChild team can help your child, please call us at (800) 692-4453 or fill out our online form. All of our resources and guided assistance is provided free of charge, year-round, so do not hesitate to reach out to see what we can do to help. Whether you want more information about Cerebral Palsy, access to our eBooks, resource guides, kits and more, we are just a phone call (or keyboard stroke) away.
We hope you and your family are safe and healthy during these difficult times.