by: Kimberly McKinney MOT, MPT, tDPT, PHC
FOTA SIS Early Intervention/School Systems Chair H2 Health at Georgia-Pacific Palatka

The news about the coronavirus is everywhere, but what effect is it having on kids? According to a new study from China’s Shenzhen province (led by scientists from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Shenzhen Center for Disease Control and Prevention) believes that although children do contract COVID-19 they do not get sick as quickly as adults. This is believed to be due to children having healthier lungs (from not smoking or fewer years of exposure to pollution) (Pappas, 2020).

According to the Center for Disease Control, at this time children have already tested positive for having COVID-19. These symptoms are similar to those seen in adults (fever, runny nose, cough, vomiting, and/ or diarrhea), but the symptoms are milder (, 2020). If COVID-19 is affecting less children, and those who do test positive have mild symptoms, why close schools statewide? The answer according to an epidemiologist at Temple University College of Public Health, Krys Johnson, is that it has nothing to do with preventing the spread of coronavirus amongst students. The problem is that children are great carriers of germs, bacteria, and viruses. The reason to close schools is to prevent the transmission of the virus amongst children and then to parents, grandparents, teachers, and other adult staff members (Rettner, 2020).

Talking to Kids

It is important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to deal with a stressful situation. They may be confused or worry about themselves, family, or friends. There is also the uncertainty of what the future holds. The best way to talk to children is in a way that is honest, accurate, minimizes anxiety or fear, and is age appropriate (CDC. gov, 2020).

According to the CDC, some of the best principles to use are:

• Remain calm and reassuring
• Make yourself available to listen and talk to
• Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma
• Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online
• Provide information that is honest and accurate
• Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs


It is important to note that for some children the school setting is their ‘safe place’. Being away from school and the uncertainty of our situation can be stressful. Children deal with stress in many different ways. According to UNICEF (2020), common responses include having difficulty with sleeping, bedwetting, having pain in the stomach or head, and being anxious, withdrawn, angry, clingy or afraid to be left alone. Children need to feel like someone is listening to their concerns and they are in a safe place. A suggestion to parents/guardians of helping would be to empower children to keep them, and everyone they come in contact, with safe. The number one way of implementing this would be with proper hygiene and handwashing.

Information to Share with Kids

While the information that should be shared with children can vary based on age, there is some information that should be shared with all. An important point to stress is that COVID-19 is contagious. There are no cures or vaccinations at this time, but prevention is the best answer. The main way to prevent the spread of the virus is through thorough handwashing. When handwashing is properly taught, it can help to could protect 1 out of every 3 children from getting sick with diarrhea, and 1 out of 5 children from obtaining respiratory infections (, 2020). Teaching handwashing skills is crucial. The CDC provides a variety of downloadable posters.

Information to Share with Parents/ Guardians

At this point, all schools within Florida will be open with some type of restriction due to COVID. Information will need to be sent home for students to be able to continue with, or maintain, their skills. Now is the Hands that look clean can still have icky germs! Wash Your Hands! This material was developed by CDC. The Life is Better with Clean Hands campaign is made possible by a partnership between the CDC Foundation, GOJO, and Staples. HHS/CDC does not endorse commercial products, services, or companies. Now is the perfect time to look at what the basic skills are that a student has challenges with. As occupational therapists, we are well suited for task analysis. This is a time when it will be best utilized. When finding activities that will benefit our students, we need to find activities that are on the level of the student. The opportunity is perfect for being able to provide feedback to parents and guardians of what their child is challenged with and why we pick the activities that we do. Explaining how those activities can be beneficial and encourage learning and growth can be informational for both the student and parent.

School System Therapists

The Department of Education has released information on providing services to children with disabilities during the coronavirus outbreak. During the time of school closures, if educational services are not provided to the general student population, they are also not required to be provided to students with disabilities (Part B of IDEA or Section 504) during the same time period. Once learning resumes, every effort must be utilized to provide special education and related services to students in accordance with the child’s IEP or Section 504 plan. Students with disabilities must have equal access to the same opportunities (including FAPE) as those provided to general education students.

For prolonged school closures, an IEP team may implement a distance learning plan. This plan may include the “provision of special education and related services at an alternate location or the provision of online or virtual instruction, instructional telephone calls, and other curriculumbased instructional activities, and may identify which special education and related services, if any, could be provided at the child’s home” (DOE, 2020).

Early Intervention Therapists

The Department of Education has stated that if the offices of the state lead agency or the EIS program/ provider are closed, then Part C services would not need to be provided to infants/toddlers and their families at that time. If the Lead agency offices are open, but the EIS program/provider are closed, then the services would not be required during that time. Once the offices re-open, it must be determined if the child’s service needs have changed and determine whether the IFSP team needs to meet and review possible changes. If the offices are open, but the services cannot be provided in the child’s home, the EIS program/provider can determine if it is safe to provided services in another environment (ie: hospital or clinic). If the offices are open, but it is determined that services should not be provided for a period of time, then the EIS provider can consult with the parent through a teleconference or alternative method (such as email or video conference), consistent with privacy interests, to provide consultative services, guidance, and advice as needed. (DOE, 2020).


According to AOTA, telehealth is a viable option for providing therapy services. AOTA’s position paper on telehealth has found that it allows access to care, “thereby removing barriers to care and promoting intervention approaches within the natural context and environment. This can influence performance and engagement of activities and affect health and wellness, participation, prevention, and improved quality of life” (Richmond & Cason, 2010). Effective July 1, 2019, providing occupational therapy though telehealth is covered under our state guidelines for Florida. The guidelines discuss the specifics of what is required such as practice standards and record keeping. The bill that describes Florida Standards for use of telehealth is found here. Resources There are plenty of resources online to develop treatment plans for our students. The has 31 days of free OT activities with materials. has resources for developmental milestones, fine motor, handwriting, sensory processing skills, and more. has resources for parents, children, and apps that can be beneficial for learning. Information and resources can also be located on various OT Facebook pages and groups (ie: School-based Occupational & Physical Therapists). It is important to also provide tasks that the student enjoys. Having activities that are enjoyable to go along with the challenging ones will encourage the student to participate.

Kimberly McKinney
215 CR 216 Palatka, FL 32177
(P): 386-329-0991 (F):386-312-1121 Email: [email protected]

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020, March). Children and youth.
Bender, L. (2020, March). Key messages and actions for COVID-19 prevention and control in schools. UNICEF, World Health Organization, IFRC.
Centers for disease control and prevention. (2020, March). Handwashing: Clean hands save lives.
Centers for disease control and prevention. (2020, March 20). Talking with children about coronavirus disease 2019: Messages for parents, school staff, and others working with children.
Centers for disease control and prevention. (2020, March 14). Show me he scienceHow to wash your hands.
Centers for disease control and prevention. (2020, March 15). Show me the scienceWhy wash your hands?
COVID-19 and Children. (2020, March 15).Department of Education. (2020, March 20). Questions and answers on providing services to children with disabilities during the coronavirus disease 2019 outbreak.
Florida Board of Occupational Therapy. (2020, March 14). Telehealth.

Growing Hands on Kids. (March 2020). Child development tips, tools, and strategies.

National Association of School Psychologists. (2020, February 29).Talking to children about COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A parent resource.

Pappas, S. (2020, March 6). Kids do get the coronavirus- The just don’t get as sick.

Rettner, R. (2020, March 5). Should schools close for coronavirus?

Richmond, T. & Cason, J. (2010). Telerehabilitation position paper. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 64S, 397–405. The OT Toolbox. (2020, March). 31 days of occupational therapy with free materials.

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