Communication is one of the most important tools for containing the spread of COVID-19. As the highly transmissible Delta variant continues to spread, reliable information about the disease and how to protect oneself and one’s community from infection are critically important. A particularly vulnerable group are people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), who may need extra help grasping vital information about the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have responded to this concern by developing information kits aimed specifically at this population and its caregivers.
As Dr. Karen Remley, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, pointed out, “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities can experience communication barriers that make it harder for them to understand and act on crucial health guidance. The aim of these materials is to help people with IDD, their parents and other caregivers share critical information with their loved ones about COVID-19 and what to expect when getting a COVID-19 test or vaccine and explain how to stay safe if they are not vaccinated.”
The CDC toolkits present five different topics relating to COVID-19:
- Getting the COVID vaccine
- Wearing a mask
- Washing hands
- Social distancing
- Getting tested for COVID
Each topic is covered in a variety of materials, including a poster, a short video, a “social story” (like a comic strip), and interactive features using multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank activities. All the materials use images and simple, clear language to get their message across. Caregivers can use these tools for people with IDD by displaying posters in kitchens and other common areas of group homes; walking through the steps of getting a vaccine; watching the videos together; and addressing questions and concerns.
The CDC has also produced a guide for healthcare providers, titled “Talking to Patients who have Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities about COVID-19.” Professionals are encouraged to keep it simple and straightforward, use images when possible, repeat and reinforce key information, and also communicate with the patient’s other caregivers and loved ones.
A companion guide for caregivers gives guidance on modeling safe behavior, showing empathy and understanding, and using the toolkits to work with people with IDD so the process isn’t so overwhelming.
Through these efforts, the CDC has stressed the critical importance of engaging with people with IDD about COVID-19, both to protect this vulnerable population and the broader community.
To access the CDC toolkits, click here.