Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics COVID-19 Back-to-School Guidance
Identifying the best school environment during this pandemic will be highly variable for individual children, and attention to equitable social-emotional and mental health services both for in-person schooling and home-schooling will support a child’s ability to thrive.
Returning to school
In-person school attendanceChildren with developmental and behavioral challenges encompass a wide spectrum. In the absence of a high-risk medical condition or immune-suppressing medication, return to school in-person may benefit and support them by establishing a consistent routine, opportunities for social interaction, encouraging a sense of normalcy, and reducing burden on caregivers.
- Return to school ensures an added layer of support physically and mentally as educators ensure children are progressing as individuals. In the event that schools are unable to open for in-person school or need to close during the academic year, advocates will need to encourage added layers of support for children with developmental challenges, special healthcare needs, or disabilities.
- Caregivers will need to weigh the many complex aspects of return to school decision-making for children in their homes, including consideration of a child’s individual medical needs, the family context and ability to support their child, and the school’s ability to offer a relatively safe space for the child, teacher, and staff.
- School provides a critical venue for the social-emotional-developmental aspect of education. Providing consistent routines with expectations, boundaries, and regular activities is vital for children with Intellectual Disability or Autism Spectrum Disorder, for example.
- These same children may struggle significantly with safety measures planned in many schools, such as adherence to mask wearing, avoiding facial touching, hand hygiene, and physical distancing.
- The impact of these same safety measures on student-teacher relationships remains unclear, and teachers need support to overcome these barriers.
Academically, children with developmental challenges are at higher risk for falling further behind with virtual schooling, and specific attention to modifications and accommodations need to be considered to support meaningful implementation of Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Local resources and funding to support safe and individualized education are likely to vary, and caregivers should pursue discussions with their local teams.
Home-schooling in a crisis environment is challenging for everyone. Parents with children who have developmental or behavioral challenges as well as a need to remain at home, require strategic guidance. Given additional time to prepare, local schools may have designed additional services to enhance support for the coming academic year, and parents should seek these resources.
Talking to your children about COVID-19
- Children's Health
- Complex Child, COVID-19 Information
- How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus - NY Times
- How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus - PBS Kids
- Podcast: Is COVID-19 more common in Down syndrome?
- Society of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics: COVID-19 Information and Resources
- Helping Children Cope With Changes Resulting From COVID-19
- Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus
Helping your child with stress and anxiety
Infants and toddlers
- Parent Tips for Helping Infants and Toddlers after Disasters
- Why are Parents Wearing Masks? Why are People Covering Their Faces?
- Playing with Words