Across the United States, some 1.2 million young children have a diagnosed disability which qualifies them for early intervention and special education services. In a new brief this week, ChildTrends outlines unique challenges facing young children with disabilities and their families as they navigate getting critical services during the pandemic. The report also offers key considerations for policy makers as they look to reopen early care and learning programs.
Special education and early intervention services are vital for young children’s well-being, and like so many other aspects of life, these services have changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The brief outlines five common impacts for young children with disabilities during this time including: a loss of in-person services, limited access to accommodations and adapted materials, social isolation for families, difficulty for parents as they take on the role of therapist or special educator, and loss of health insurance for children with unemployed parents. Interruptions to, or inadequate, services can have long-ranging effects on children and their families and ChildTrends’ report urges policy makers to consider solutions to these challenges.
The brief notes that states and programs must intentionally plan to meet the needs of young children and families with disabilities. Specifically, the report suggests that states partner with experts, across state agencies, to provide clear guidance to programs. The brief also recommends that states consider, or expand, in-home services for children and mental health supports for families. Finally, given the nature of COVID-19, the report advises states and programs plan for closures and disruption of services throughout the year. Together, these recommendations can help mitigate the disruption for young children with disabilities and their families.
You can read the full brief from ChildTrends here.