As the world continues to adjust and adapt to our new normal in the wake of COVID-19, people across communities still face much adversity and uncertainty. For children and youth with disabilities and their families, the effects of the pandemic are far more exacerbated and devastating. The British Columbia Representative for Children and Youth’s December 2020 report, Left Out, revealed how COVID-19 disproportionally affected families of children and youth with special needs. The report reinforced the need to keep disabled children not only physically safe, but also look after their psychological and emotional wellbeing.
For 67 years, Grandview Kids has provided specialized programs, outpatient clinical treatment, and support to thousands of children and youth and their families with physical, communication and developmental needs and their families. We see first-hand, every day how crucial early and continuous intervention is to help these children and youth live life to their full potential. When COVID-19 forced our society to shut down in March 2020, Grandview Kids worried about the impact on clients we serve. For many families, Grandview Kids is a lifeline, there to support and guide them during challenging and emotional times throughout their child’s development.
We closed our sites in March 2020 when little was known about the COVID-19 virus. We nimbly responded, moving services online to offer clients virtual appointments. Dedicated teams worked to secure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and supplies for staff, while also implementing a series of evidence-based Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) protocols to keep clients, families and staff safe when we were ready to re-open for in-person services.
Some Grandview Kids clients with complex needs continued to receive safe, effective in-centre care from our committed clinical and medical teams early on in the pandemic. In September 2020, we safely re-opened five of our eight locations for in-person appointments. Some sites could not accommodate our enhanced pandemic protocols, so they remain closed.
When planning to re-open, Grandview Kids’ top priority was safety, but we could not discount the risk to families the longer we stayed closed for in-person services. We acted quickly to make sure we could be there to fill some of the significant gaps in in our clients’ lives, which had been created by the pandemic.Lorraine Sunstrum-Mann, Chief Executive Officer, Grandview Kids
Maintaining a routine induces a sense of discipline as well as safety in children, which is important for their psychological and emotional development. Making adjustments to routines, such as experiencing school closures, social distancing and/or confinement to home, can prove to be a real struggle for children with physical and mental disabilities (Bartlett et al., 2020). Disrupting access to these children’s Grandview Kids therapists and services would only aggravate the problem.
When considering the populations Grandview Kids serves, challenges of online learning coupled with a lack of at-home recreational activities can prove to be frustrating for children with physical disabilities. Furthermore, developing social skills and social interaction is one of the hardest issues for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Hills, 2020).
We have witnessed many families in crisis since COVID-19 took over our lives, as supports for their children were impacted while service providers figured out a response plan. While the fallout continues, the adverse effects on children’s health and wellbeing increases every day, making access to agencies like ours even more critical.Dr. Carolyn Hunt, Medical Director, Grandview Kids
Grandview Kids’ safe-re-opening strategy means that these families were once again connected to the life-changing care they had come to rely on. It has been a learning experience for Grandview Kids teams, but they are united in a shared purpose to continue offering the quality, compassionate care that families have come to know and expect from Grandview Kids.
Grandview Kids continues to innovate its service delivery approach in response to COVID-19. We offer virtual sessions across programs and disciplines, as well as in-person appointments, appreciating some families and children prefer face-to-face interactions, while some therapies and assessments are not conducive to telepractice.
Despite the pandemic, demand for our paediatric medical and rehabilitation services continues to grow across Durham Region, exceeding 19,000 children and youth every year. Backed by the ongoing support of our local community, Grandview Kids remains committed to delivering exceptional services to families who need us, especially as we look ahead to beginning construction on our new Centre of Excellence and headquarters in Ajax.
Bartlett J.D., Griffin J., Thomson D., 2020. Resources for supporting children’s emotional wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Child Trends. Retrieved from: https://www.childtrends.org/publications/resources-for-supporting-childrens-emotional-well-being-during-the-covid-19-pandemic
Charlesworth, J., Representative for Children and Youth (2020). Left out: Children and youth with special needs in the pandemic. Retrieved from: https://rcybc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/CYSN_Report.pdf Hills F. The Atlantic; 2020. The Pandemic is a Crisis for Students with Special Needs. Retrieved from: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2020/04/special-education-goes-remote-covid-19-pandemic/610231/
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