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Children with Disabilities: Risks and Ways to Provide Support

September 23, 2020

Children with disabilities are more at risk for maltreatment. This risk has increased during COVID-19. Be cognizant of changes in behaviour as they may indicate maltreatment. An increase or change in behaviour problems does not always imply maltreatment; however, signs of maltreatment are often overlooked as they may be thought of as being associated with the disability. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to assess maltreatment risks frequently to ensure the safety of the child.

Children with cognitive disabilities may have difficulty understanding abstract concepts such as a virus. This may provoke anxiety, fear, and difficulty remembering health and safety guidelines. Children would benefit from evolving and understandable information explaining COVID-19 and proper hygiene. Children will also benefit from having their questions encouraged and playing ‘fun’ mask-wearing and hand-washing games.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to frequently discuss how the child is feeling, to provide a consistent routine, to create new traditions, to participate in activities involving shared enjoyment, and to have music or TV visuals playing in the background of the home. This will support the mental health of children with disabilities who are uncomfortable with change and experiencing increased isolation.

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