8 THE QUEENS COURIER • FEBRUARY 18, 2021 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Flushing pediatrician highlights the pandemic’s
toll on special needs children and their families
BY CARLOTTA MOHAMED
Nearly a year into the COVID-19
pandemic, children with special needs
have drastically regressed, experiencing
both academic and behavioral challenges,
according to Dr. Prashil Govind, a
medical director of the Developmental
and Behavioral Pediatric Department at
It is one of the largest developmental
and behavioral pediatric centers, located
at 4500 Parsons Blvd., that primarily
serves children (from toddlers to age 18)
with disabilities such as learning issues,
ADHD, autism, speech and language
impairment, behavioral challenges, and
many other concerns.
When the center pivoted from in-person
sessions to virtual tele-health visits
with families during the height of
the pandemic, Govind observed that his
patients — some with developmental disabilities
such as cognitive and social emotional
development — had regressive
behaviors, such as becoming easily upset
and acting out against adults.
“Usually when we have these behaviors,
it’s the tip of the iceberg and their way
of communicating some of the challenges
they’re having,” Govind said. “Some of
the other issues around special needs kids
are those with ADHD or learning disabilities,
who had to be in front of a screen
for extended periods of time, which isn’t
engaging as live teaching.”
While children were adapting to
remote-learning during the pandemic,
their families were dealing with challenges
— such as not knowing how to connect
with a doctor through tele-health,
according to Govind. Additionally, families
didn’t have enough devices for children
in their households and had Wi-Fi
“In Queens, we have a large immigrant
population and English is not necessarily
their primary language, and they the
parents had challenges of trying to get
help because of the language barrier,”
Describing it as a “perfect storm” of
challenges where families found themselves
stretched with numerous barriers
amid a pandemic, Govind had to provide
technical support and sometimes
spoke with parents over the phone.
For Govind, it was mutually benefi
cial connecting with families, since they
were all going through the same stressors
of feeling worried and concerned.
“For them it felt reassuring to get some
guidance and feedback and to just talk
about the challenges they were having,”
Govind said. “While I didn’t always feel
like I was able to give them the help they
needed, I felt like at least we were able to
connect and they felt a sense of comfort.”
Th ere have been some positive outcomes
from conducting tele-health visits,
which Govind described as a house visit.
“I remember one particular child who
was excited and grabbed the iPad to
show me his Lego creation, and it was
an opportunity for me to see the child in
a natural setting which is diff erent from
a medical setting that is very sterilized,”
Govind said. “It was nice to see them in a
more relaxed atmosphere in the comfort
of their home.”
However, Govind was unable to interact
with other children that were not
able to stay in front of the screen.
When COVID-19 cases began to
decline, the center had reopened in
May with social-distancing guidelines
in place to ensure the safety and health
of its staff and patients. Govind was
able to interact and play with the
children, conduct full assessments
and address developmental issues.
However, some families didn’t feel
comfortable with in-person visits until
the summertime, while others had to
juggle their other kids’ at-home learning
schedules and taking public transportation.
“We tried to work with each family
individually based on where their comfort
level was and how we can best meet
their needs,” Govind said.
While the center is currently inundated
with requests for appointments
and the pediatricians cannot
see their patients in a
timely manner due
to the growing
a list of tangible actions families
can take to help their children.
He is encouraging parents to create a
visual calendar of scheduled classes for
the week, having kids take a break during
the day, setting up a designated space in
the household specifi cally for schoolwork,
setting up a rewards system for completing
a task, and most importantly, maintaining
a nightly sleep routine.
According to Govind, during remote
learning, many families expressed challenges
connecting with their children’s
school, and didn’t know how to negotiate
services through the system. For example,
if a child qualifi es for special education
an Individualized Education Program
Plan (IEP), parents don’t understand
what’s in the plan and the services that
their children are entitled to, Govind said.
During the pandemic, the DOE created
the Special Education Program
Adaptations Document (PAD) along with
the student’s schedule, to ensure that special
education teachers and families share
information with another about how the
student can best benefi t from blended or
fully remote learning.
Th e PAD is a living document, based on a
student’s most recent fi nalized IEP, and can
be revisited at any point, based on how the
child is responding to blended or remote
learning, and at the parent’s request.
“Again, many parents had no idea about
that — it may be that it was in their spam
folder and a lot of them had technical
challenges, and also the language barrier,
not understanding what is told
them about these services,” Govind
said. While they are medical providers,
Govind said they give families
access to community resources
that can benefi t their children.
“A lot of times we fi nd ourselves
not just making diagnoses
and recommendations, but
also helping with case management
educating parents about the
systems and hoping to get them
the support that they need for
their child that may have a developmental
disability,” Govind said.
Govind says he is concerned
about certain populations, such as
low-income families in Queens, that
have been more disproportionately
aff ected by the pandemic.
“It’s important for us to recognize disadvantaged
families that need support. While
we look at other resources and nonprofit
organizations that can assist, I still feel
like we’re not quite getting the help
directly to these families,” Govind
Courtesy of Govind
Dr. Prashil Govind, a
director of the
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