Key study gauges Covid’s impact on young lives

Covid-19’s impact on children and young people with intellectual disabilities is to be assessed in a UK-wide study.


Building a clearer picture of the pandemic’s effect will make it easier to support families as lockdown restrictions ease, University of Edinburgh researchers say.

The UK Government’s Covid-19 response strategy has significantly impacted the lives of those with intellectual difficulties, according to the study team.

Limited access to education, respite care and specialist services – as well as restrictions on family support – is having unknown consequences, the team says.

Volunteers are being sought to take part in the study. By listening to people’s experiences during – and moving out of –lockdown, the team is seeking to better understand why some families are at greater risk than others.

Intellectual disability

Intellectual disability – or ID – is a term used when a person has certain limitations in cognitive functioning and skills, including communication, social and self-care skills.

These limitations can cause a child to develop and learn more slowly, or differently, than a typically developing child and are often associated with challenging behaviours. ID can happen any time before adulthood, and even before birth.

The relative vulnerability of children with ID was highlighted in a recent report by the Children's Society. It indicated that children with ID are more susceptible to wellbeing and mental health issues as a result of Covid.

Edinburgh researchers say urgent support is needed to help affected young people adapt to changes in routine and to build an understanding what is going on.

Continuing challenges

These challenges will continue for some time despite the recent implementation of the UK wide vaccination programme, the Edinburgh team predicts.

This, the team says, is likely to compound the higher incidence of mental health issues that have been reported in young people with ID and their caregivers. 

Lead researcher Karri Gillespie-Smith, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Health in Social Science, said: “The experiences of young people with ID, and their caregivers, has so far been unexplored – yet this will be crucial to help us understand how families can be supported in the transition back to normality’”

The study is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Related links

School of Health in Social Science