Russia: how the pandemic has affected those with special needs

Society’s most vulnerable group: How the pandemic has affected those with special needs


A meeting of the Naked Heart Foundation’s International Forum was held in Moscow on 22 November. This year’s theme aimed at parents with special needs children and professional specialists was “New times: Experience, Needs and Opportunities”. The plenary session discussed the issues that families raising a child with special needs have to face and whether the work of online professionals has become more difficult.

More support

Asya Zalognia, President of the Naked Heart Foundation, said that those with special needs have required more support as a result of the pandemic.

“So many countries say that their governments have not always taken the specific requirements of people with special needs into consideration when developing effective support measures. We are all well aware of how much restrictions on social interaction have affected us but for those with special needs, it has been even harder. Parents have had to acquire new knowledge and master the latest technology in order to help their children”, said Zalognia.

The Naked Heart Foundation helps people with autism and other disabilities and their families by developing systematic professional support and their inclusion in education, employment and leisure activities.

Global experience

Syatoslav Dovbnya, a child neurologist and expert at the Naked Heart Foundation, had analysed a number of international studies on how those with special needs and their families have coped during the pandemic. Many people with special needs around the world are constantly faced with a range of problems related to public transport, issues of accessibility and communicating with others. These people, according to Dovbnya, are at higher risk of being left on their own and isolated – a situation that has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

Special needs adults and children are also at an increased risk of contracting Covid-19 during the pandemic given the difficulty in maintaining social distancing and their reliance on adapted public transport, contact with caregivers and health workers, as well as visiting hospitals.

“People with special needs fall into the most vulnerable risk group when it comes to the spread of the virus”, said Dovbnya.

Global research shows that parents of special needs children have noticed limited access to medical care, changes in social and domestic habits, mental health and physical activity.

“The closure of schools and kindergartens has meant that children have stayed at home where parents have had to manage their behaviour while continuing with their education, overseeing their child’s work online, as well as dealing with other tasks at the same time. Studies show that all this has increased levels of stress among parents”, said the expert.


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