Direct Effects of COVID-19 on Education for Learners of All Ages

Key Takeaway

Though it is too soon to have a large bank of data of the outcomes of COVID-19 on education, researchers anticipate a widening of the existing educational gap for students from lower socioeconomic differences and children with learning differences. As educators, it is critical we continue to check in with students about how they are coping and what assistance we can guide them toward in our schools and communities. —Matt Piercy

Virtual School: A Domino Effect

When educators made the shift to teaching virtually, it quickly became apparent that schools provided for many of society’s needs and not just learning. Schools often are depended on for basic necessities such as shelter, food, and health care. Socialization, a sense of connection, and mental health also all quickly surfaced as needs which schools often help fulfill. Further, the impact was not for just the youngest or oldest of learners. Rather, learners of all ages were affected.  

In their article, “The Effect of COVID-19 on Education,” Hoffman and Secord attest to how “the pandemic may bring about adverse educational changes and adverse health consequences for children and young adult learners in grade school, middle school, high school, college, and professional schools.” 

Direct Effects of COVID-19 and Statistics

The results of the study can be summarized as follows: 

  1. The effects of virtual schooling and the pandemic showed an increase in behavioral problems. On one survey, 34.71% of parents reported behavioral problems in their children1 
  2. Pandemic shutdowns led to family stress. Compiled evidence that “adverse life experiences at an early age are associated with an increased likelihood of mental health issues as an adult.2  
  3. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is legislation that allows for “appropriate accommodations, services, modifications, and specialized academic instruction to ensure that ‘every child receives a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment.’ “3 Delivery of support services were difficult with COVID measures.
  4. Families of children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder reported increased stress compared with other disabilities. This was true both pre-pandemic and only increased during the pandemic as more responsibility for monitoring was necessary during homeschooling.4 
  5. Adolescents with ADD/ADHD found the switch to virtual learning to be more anxiety producing. 
  6. “Adolescents reported higher rates of depression and anxiety associated with the pandemic, and in 1 study, 14.4% of teenagers report post-traumatic stress disorder, whereas 40.4% report having depression and anxiety.”5
  7. Parents reported how complicated and challenging it was to address children’s educational as well as mental health needs, especially as access to mental health services was limited during the pandemic. 
  8. Virtual learning led to excessive screen time which impacted sleep and also physical and mental health.
  9. Effects were felt at all levels of education, including medical school. The medical field adapted curriculum and methods in an effort to ensure student and patient safety during the pandemic. Medical students entering clinical rotations during the pandemic had a drastically different experience.  

Although the pandemic forced the hand of increasing technology integration, the negative impacts were far and wide. Again, it is still too early to fully comprehend the “fallout” or “fall behind” the pandemic has caused.

Ultimately, the delivery of knowledge and development of skills was felt at all levels of education. Some learners compensated and likely will continue to. Yet, we can anticipate a widening of the gap for the already disadvantaged—students in lower socioeconomic classes, who have language differences, or special needs. 

Summarized Article:

Hoofman, J., & Secord, E. (2021). The Effect of COVID-19 on Education. Pediatric clinics of North America, 68(5), 1071–1079. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcl.2021.05.009

Summary by: Matt Piercy—Matt appreciates how at the heart of the MARIO Framework is a passion to develop relationships and a desire to empower students to uncover their purpose while building upon strengths.  Further, Matt is inspired by how the MARIO team supports educators and is quickly and nobly becoming a collaborative force in pursuit of educational equity.

Additional References:  

  1. Bobo E, Lin L, Acquaviva E, et al. How do children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience during the COVID-19 outbreak? Encephale 2020;46(3S). 
  2. Merrick MT, Ports KA, Ford DC, et al. Unpacking the impact of adverse childhood experiences on adult mental health. Child Abuse Negl 2017;69:10–9. 
  3. Keogh B. Celebrating PL 94-142: the education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Issues Teach Educ Fall 2007;16(2):65–9. 
  4. Cox DJ, Plavnick JB, Brodhead MT. A proposed process for risk mitigation during OID-19 pandemic. Behav Anal Pract 2020;13(2):299–305 (Behavior Analyst Cer tification Board.(2020) Ethics guidelines for ABA providers during COVID-19 pandemic. Available at: http://www.back.com/ethics-guidelines-for-aba providers-during-covid-19-pandemic-2/. 
  5. Liang L, Ren H, Cao R, et al. The effect of COVID-19 on youth mental health. Psy chiatr Q 2020;91:841–52. 
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Join the MARIO Family

We are a dedicated group of learners that are constantly seeking to improve the lives of the children we care for. Whether you are a teacher, parent, assistant, or administrator, we give you free access to the most recent special education related research and practices available. Our twice monthly MARIO Memo summarizes and shares studies from peer-reviewed journals, while our learning letters provide insights from MARIO classrooms.

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