A guest blog from Karen Dimmock, CEO of Association for Children with Disability.
The words ‘snap lockdown’ have been added to our communal shudder-inducing lexicon – alongside exponential, unprecedented and late press conference.
Most of the state is moving on quickly from that five-day blip, now that the outbreak appears to be contained and the donut days are rolling again.
But for some Victorians the ripples of the lockdown continue to be felt – particularly young Victorians with disability and their families.
The Association for Children with Disability has heard from families whose children were so distressed by the changes that it’s impacted their ongoing wellbeing and behaviour.
For some children with disability, change can be hard to deal with. Children with intellectual disability can struggle to understand the reasons for everything changing so quickly, and to understand how long changes will last.
It doesn’t help that the rules have been so shifting for them: during the early lockdowns children with disability were at home like their peers, but in regional Victoria the recent snap lockdown was the first time since May 2020 that they couldn’t go to school, and in the mid-year lockdowns students with disability in metropolitan Melbourne were able to keep attending.
During these last weeks parents have reported new levels of distress and meltdowns: “They were behaving in a way we hadn’t seen for years.”
This impacts whole families – the child themselves, their parents and siblings.
And it doesn’t necessarily end when the lockdown does. Returning to school after the disruption can be just as stressful. For some children and their families the distress is very much ongoing.
“They were behaving in a way we hadn’t seen for years.”
In a pandemic, decisions often have to be made quickly to keep us safe and well. But how these decisions are applied and communicated can make all the difference for some families.
The Association for Children with Disability is calling on the Victorian Government to:
- ensure school closures are a last resort
- create a consistent and transparent approach to school attendance during lockdown with specific consideration of students with disability
- ensure that when lockdowns occur families know what support is available.
All early childhood services and schools should provide all families with information about what is permitted during the restrictions, and about services such as child minding.
This information should include the specific support that’s available for families with children with disability.
And it should be available in Easy English and translated versions.
These are simple and common-sense measures that can help children with disability and their families in any future lockdowns.
So everyone can come through the hard times and snap back to normal.