How do you talk about COVID-19 to people with intellectual disabilities?
By: Ben Drew, Open Future Learning
Coronavirus is changing people’s lives dramatically. People can no longer take part in activities outside the house, meet with friends, go to work or clubs or anything else that involves groups of people. People can no longer visit elderly relatives, and people’s families can no longer visit. Suddenly, the holiday someone you support had been looking forward to is cancelled.
We often think about “bad news” in relation to serious illness and death, but really, it could be anything that makes your future look less bright than you had thought. How bad news is experienced, is affected by someone’s concept of future, their ability for abstract thinking, and the things that they had looked forward to. People who have difficulty coping with change may experience any kind of changes to their routine (even seemingly minor ones) as “bad news.”
This makes the coronavirus very bad news indeed.
Coronavirus is particularly difficult for people with intellectual disabilities, many of whom are particularly reliant on routines, on familiar activities, on seeing their families and friends. Breaking bad news is really all about helping people to cope with change. This article is written for those who support people with intellectual disabilities in their daily lives. How can you “break bad news of coronavirus”? How can you support people to understand what is happening and to cope with the sudden changes to their lives?
(Complete text for hints and tips (with videos) can be found at