Children With Disabilities, The Forgotten Victims Of COVID-19 Shutdown
The forgotten victims of the COVID-19 shutdown are children with special needs. Jennifer Bailey is a local mother who is concerned about the lack of services her child and others have been given during the shutdown.
Bailey is the mother of Connor who is 2, turning 3 in July. According to Jennifer one of the biggest challenges she's facing is Connor not receiving the medically prescribed treatments, therapies and life skills he's entitled to. Bailey says those services include, "speech, occupational and physical therapy, ABA behavioral therapy, SEIT services, feeding therapy. It’s all considered “education” and listed under phase 4 of reopening." Bailey adds, "Summer school has now been closed when disabled children depend on the services provided through the summer."
Bailey says the barriers children with special needs encounter are ones that need specific in-person attention to help overcome. She says where distanced learning and tele-education may work for some, for a 2-3 year-old with special needs its effectiveness is nearly impossible. While Bailey is left doing all she can for Connor, her three other children, ages 3, 5 and 9 are also now being home schooled and she her husband are essential workers.
Bailey did send a letter to several representatives at the state and local levels seeking help and guidance navigating this difficult road. She describes in the letter essentially what she has shared with WIBX. Her biggest concern now is the regression Connor has endured as a result of, as Bailey says, her "Support Community." Essential functions such as eating have become difficult for Connor and she is worried all the progress made so far, will wither away and she'll be back to square one. In her letter to legislators she writes,
We can go into stores with hundreds of people who touch everything. Daycare teachers can care for 8, 10, children at a time with a mask on. I don’t understand the reason why these children can’t receive their 1:1 home and community based therapies. Why has this not been revisited as salons, entertainment centers, casinos etc are all reopening.
Bailey is running out of options and says her and her husband are Connor's only voice. "Our son is sweet, silly, full of joy, and aches to be loved. He is an amazing child who desperately needs support at this young age to gain the functional skills to give back and be a part of this amazing Oneida city community," says Bailey. Hopefully leaders can come to a solution to help parents like Jennifer and her husband across the country.
Jennifer's story makes you wonder what other individuals have fallen through the cracks caused by the Coronavirus Shutdown. We already know based on repeated statements from Oneida County Executive Picente and Sheriff Rob Maciol that calls to the Child Advocacy Center are down. They're not down due to a reduced number of abuses, they're down because teachers and other school staff who are mandated reporters aren't witnessing the evidence of trauma.
Even as things begin to reopen, Bailey worries that Connor will not be ready for the transition back into his daycare without having had that one-on-one care he relies on. Hopefully a solution is not far away. Parents like the Baileys are out there and are in need of help.