Students and Faculty Create Aids for Developmentally Disabled During Pandemic

By | May 1, 2021

Combating COVID challenges unique to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) is focus of state grant and partnership.

With funding from the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC), the Daemen College Department of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) will create training modules to help individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) and their caregivers handle the unique challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two Daemen ABA students are building the four modules under the guidance of Deborah Napolitano and Kellie Kotwicki, both assistant professors in the department. 

Deborah Napolitano

Deborah Napolitano

The project will aim to teach families and care providers skills and resources to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and maintain the health, safety, and inclusion of persons with IDD.

Collaborating with St. John Fisher College, Daemen received a subaward from a DDPC grant won by the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing, which is housed in the Wegmans School of Nursing at St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y. 

“We are grateful to the DDPC for recognizing this need for families and their loved ones related to health and safety,” said Napolitano, a co-investigator on the grant and also an adjunct professor at Fisher.

“These modules will be useful far beyond the pandemic due to their focus on teaching strategies for families around critical skills like how to effectively teach and how to help reduce anxiety over sensory-related challenges,” said Napolitano. 

Helping a vulnerable population

Recent data has suggested that individuals with IDD may be particularly susceptible to some COVID-19-related conditions, including pneumonia, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease. 

Kellie Kotwicki

Kellie Kotwicki

Other research indicates that the increased isolation caused by the pandemic has negatively affected the mental health of IDD individuals and their families. 

“These increased risks make it critical for this population to adhere to the safety measures that will allow them to engage safely in their communities,” said Kotwicki.

To be available online starting later this year, the modules will provide information on how to help people with IDD increase their comfort wearing protective masks, decrease face touching, maintain social distancing, and other safety-conscious measures.