COVID-19 Risks for People with
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
What is an Intellectual or Developmental Disability?
Intellectual (ID) and developmental disabilities (DD) are lifelong and include persons with Down syndrome, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Fragile X Syndrome, and many other disabilities. The cause of these disabilities is often unknown. These disabilities can and do happen to anyone.
Intellectual disability is defined by a below-average cognitive ability – this includes:
- Significant limitations in everyday life activities
- The onset of the disability occurs before age 18
- Intellectual disabilities are diagnosed through testing intelligence and adaptive behavior
Developmental disability is a broad term that includes autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other disorders that occur before age 18.
What is my risk of getting very sick from COVID-19?
People with ID and DD are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 and becoming very sick. If you have ID or DD, you are more likely to become very sick or die from COVID-19.
Why am I more at risk of getting very sick from COVID-19?
We know that people with ID or DD are much more likely to die from COVID-19 than people without those disabilities. This is because:
- Your ID or DD might mean you have a weaker immune system. This means it is easier for you to get sick.
- You may have a hard time protecting yourself from getting sick. This could be because you have a hard time washing your hands or staying 6 feet away from others. Maybe you have to get help from a direct service provider and they are not being careful to protect you from getting sick.
- The things you have to do to protect yourself from getting sick might change your daily routine. This can cause stress. Stress can make it harder for you to protect yourself, tell others how you feel, and make it easier for you to get sick.
- You might have a hard time or not be able to tell doctors or caregivers how you feel.
- You may have a hard time understanding information about COVID-19. This could be because the information shared with you is not easy to read or understand.
What proof is there that I’m at greater risk of getting very sick?
- We know that people between the ages of 18 and 74 who have DD and get sick from COVID-19 are over 3 times more likely to die and those with ID are 2 times more likely to die than people between the ages of 18 and 74 who get sick with COVID-19 and do not have ID and DD.
- If you have Down Syndrome: We know that adults with Down Syndrome are more than 10 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
- If you have Cerebral Palsy (CP): We know that people with CP have a higher risk of respiratory problems. This means if you get COVID-19 the sickness can make it hard to breathe.
- If you have Autism: We know that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder are more likely to have other health conditions. Having more than one health condition makes you at higher risk of getting very sick or dying from COVID-19.
- If you live in a group home or other kind of home with other people who have ID or DD: Many people with ID or DD live in residential group homes. Living in places like this makes your risk of getting sick from COVID-19 much higher because the virus can easily spread from person to person and make you sick.