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Author: Stephanie L. Santoro, et al.

Year of Publication: 2023


Down syndrome (DS) has a unique medical and psychological profile. To date, few studies have asked individuals with DS about their views of health, and fewer have explored the impact of COVID-19 on the health of individuals with DS and their families. We used a mixed methods approach including two studies on the health of individuals with DS and their parents conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic: (1) eight virtual focus groups, comprised of 20 parents and 8 individuals with DS to obtain participants’ views of health, and (2) a 20-item questionnaire on health-care experience of patients with DS who are African American or come from primarily Spanish-speaking homes. Focus group transcripts were coded using a hybrid inductive/deductive framework and thematically analyzed using the Framework Method. This questionnaire included questions regarding the impact of COVID-19 on caregivers and their loved ones with DS; responses to these questions were summarized using descriptive statistics. Individuals with DS discussed the impact of the COVID19 pandemic on their physical and social health including masking, online learning, and online communication with friends and family. Parents of individuals with DS discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted their child’s physical, social, and mental health, as a result of virtual schooling and decreased socialization. There were unexpected positives of the pandemic such as improved hygiene and eased scheduling with telehealth visits. Caregivers noted COVID-19 impacted their own anxiety, employment, and other domains that have potential ripple effects on the health of their children. The COVID-19 pandemic had a pervasive impact on the mental health and wellness of caregivers as well as the physical, social, and mental health of individuals with DS.