Tampa Bay Physician Discusses Return To School For Children With Disabilities

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – As some Tampa Bay school districts roll out reopening plans, most include virtual and in-classroom options for parents. When choosing to send your child back to the classroom, district officials like those in Pinellas County say, when in the classroom, and due to the nature of a student’s disability, staff members can wear masks and face shields instead. But as Dr. Craig Escude, President of Health Risk Screening, Inc. says the decision involves multiple factors.

It has been shown that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are at greater risk from a significant infection and actually at a greater risk of dying,” said Dr. Escude, “People with disabilities tend to have increased incidents of other conditions such as respiratory conditions or gastrointestinal conditions.”

Click here for CW44 Tampa Bay Video Interview of Dr. Craig Escudé

Dr. Escude, a family physician who spent most of his career focusing on those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, has been working with his company to identify risks that are often missed in individuals with mental health disabilities. He says there are ways around deciding what’s best for your child come August.

“Many people with disabilities receive additional services at schools that they are not able to receive if they’re at home,” said Dr. Escude. “Adequate nutrition, behavioral health support, behavioral health services at school, they may receive speech and occupational therapy at school that they are not able to receive if they are at home in the same way.”

“So first, list the reasons “why” it’s important for them to go to school. You know, is this actually the best thing,” said Dr. Escude.

He says to compare it; Can you achieve the same outcome or provide the same support and services in a virtual environment? 

“Not just whether you think they are able but have they demonstrated the ability to wear a mask? Are they able to participate in appropriate hand washing and hand sanitizing? It’s also important to look at the overall infection rate in your community,” said Dr. Escude.

Before deciding against it, he’s says to consider the effects of the student not returning.

“We hear a lot about isolation and isolation can lead to depression, it can lead to anxiety,” said Dr. Escude.

Most of all, he says to practice patience; not only in your decision making, but with health and education officials as research continues.

“What we know about Coronavirus changes almost every day. And it’s important understand that, while we would like to have all of the information and all of the data, immediately, it’s simply not possible,” said Dr. Escude. “In order to understand how the virus spreads, we have to observe how it spreads. In order to understand which drugs work best to treat it or prevent it, we have to test those.”

Finally, if you’re still unsure if you’re making the right decision for your family, Dr. Escude says your child’s healthcare provider can help in the decision making process.

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