It’s safe to say we have all struggled to adjust to the sweeping social, economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the nondisabled population, reports of heightened depression and anxiety from the isolation, loneliness and other aftershocks of the pandemic reflect the importance of connection and socialization to our overall health.

Now imagine navigating this pandemic as a person with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD); a person who thrives on structure and interaction with others. A daily routine, activities and social connection are vital to continued learning, confidence and overall well-being. Yet this vulnerable population, many with underlying medical conditions, are receiving far less, if any, supportive services since the pandemic started.

For many who need in-person care, and who have lost the support of trained caregivers or community service providers, the isolation can be devastating. Because it’s been challenging to provide in-person services, activities and jobs that are vital to emotional health, those with I/DD and their caregivers are at particular risk of the harmful effects of isolation.

Without these essential services, people with I/DD cannot always find other ways to socialize. Such disruption in routine, coupled with isolation, can lead to behavioral changes, including withdrawing, acting out physically or being more confrontational. Beyond the immediate impact, there’s also the potential for long-term effects that will take time to reverse. A key aspect of our services is helping people develop life skills—and months of isolation will likely mean people with disabilities experience regression.

For families that may already be stretched thin by stress, economic uncertainty and lack of patience, taking on the additional responsibility of emotional and physical progress for their I/DD family member can be too much to bear.

Reimagine continues to serve its clients with online programming. And appointment-based, in-person physical, occupational and speech therapies, as well as children’s programming are being offered under strict COVID-19 safety protocols.

We look forward to the day when we can welcome our participants, existing and new, back with open arms. What a day that will be!

For more about the pandemic’s impact on people with disabilities, click here to listen to an interview on KSBR 88.5 FM radio with Reimagine team members – Dr. Glenn Motola, PSY.D., CEO and Savitha Creel, Program Coordinator.