The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) is stepping up to help local families of children or teenagers with autism, or other special needs, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hospital says it's heard from a number of families that need help, so it's decided to launch an emergency respite service which will be in place until early summer and then be re-evaluated.
Respite, in this case, is defined as care delivered by CHEO clinicians in the place of family caregivers so they can have a temporary break from the responsibilities of providing care to a family member at home. The clinicians at CHEO are highly trained health-care professionals with experience working with children and youth who have special needs.
The sessions are being held at CHEO for free and are allotted in four-to-six hour blocks, Monday to Friday.
The hospital says the program can currently accommodate up to 35 children or youth per week -- focused on meeting individual needs while respecting physical distancing.
"Emergency respite does not replace therapy for special needs children. This programming focuses on delivering fun, recreational activities with children and youth so that family caregivers can have a temporary break from the responsibilities of providing fulltime care at home during this pandemic," says Monique Lugli, Vice-President, Child Development and Community Services at CHEO.
CHEO will consider growing the program and reaching more children with broader special needs across the region, if there is demand.
The children's hospital is using a clinically-informed decision aide to fill its new program. Eligibility is not diagnosis-specific, it is needs-based, and the goal is to help as many children and youth with special needs as possible. Considerations include the following factors:
- Behaviour and level of distress of the child or youth
- Family stress such as single parent, housing issues
- Psychosocial factors such as increased isolation, cultural barriers
- Access to support including family, friends, community organizations, spiritual support
When onsite, CHEO says every hospital safety precaution is in place, including screening, physical distancing, hand hygiene and universal masking. CHEO clinicians also have full access to Emergency Department support services if required.
Anyone interested in CHEO’s respite care for children and youth with special needs is asked to email RespiteSpecialNeeds@cheo.on.ca.