The children who have never lived without Covid-19


It’s 10:30 am, and the flower shop in Classroom 9 is open for business.

Nataly, 5 is the cashier. She presides over a toy cash register and an array of vibrant floral
arrangements, such as orchids and carnations. Arlet five is a floor cleaner. The teacher of the
class, Rawshan Khanam, is the first person to purchase. For a small bouquet, Nataly quotes her
at a cost of $50.

Apart from the shock of a sticker (inflation has clearly impacted the flower market for
preschoolers market) It’s the most common interaction you can have is a group of kids and their
teachers playing in the store. The children at the Children Center of the New York Corona Head
Start Program located in Corona, Queens, however, were able to spend some of their most
critical developmental years in a state of the pandemic in which shopping at the supermarket -or
even anywhere else was not as easy.

The story keeps coming up even as they’re in preschool in the Corona Head Start program,
which serves children with low incomes in the area in New York City hard-hit by Covid. Khanam
reminds her of what her children have missed out on when she questions her about the
childhood memories that they once shared. “Have you ever visited an art museum? No. Have you ever visited the beach? No. Have you ever visited any library? Not once,” she said. “It’s so much ‘no’ in their lives.”

The moment about two and a quarter years after the pandemic began children have begun to
recapture the events that they didn’t get to experience. Children who are younger than 5, still
aren’t able to get vaccinated and some families are uncertain about whether a return to
normalcy is secure — or even possible. In the meantime infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are
going through crucial times of emotional and social development during times of stress and
loneliness for a lot of Americans. A majority of them spent their early months locked down which
meant they were often isolated from relatives and did not have tiny but meaningful learning
opportunities such as being in a sandbox or going to the store. Many of their parents were under
a lot of stress too, which could affect children long before they even get born.

Psychologists, as well as educators and experts, are still figuring out what it means for young
children to be born in the largest public health issue in the history of a generation. A portion of
the news is worrying: one study has found that children born during the outbreak were just a
little ahead of their pre-pandemic peers on the basis of social and motor development. Teachers
and parents are concerned about the language development of children in their early years.
development following long periods of silence and wearing masks. “Their speech is so delayed,”
Khanam stated.

The current picture, but it’s not as grim as one may be tempted to believe. Experts are of the
opinion that young brains that are still developing are remarkably adept at rebounding from the
new environment, even the most difficult. “Children are really resilient, and anything that they’re
experiencing during this pandemic probably prepares them well for future stressors,” said
Moriah Thomason, a neuroscientist who studies developmental processes at New York

The children of today may be better prepared for what comes next than those who were settled
in their ways when the lockdown was in place. To recover and learn from the lessons they were
not able to capitalize on in the early days, However, they require assistance in the form of
counseling, therapy for speech, and other services which are frequently scarce as schools and
city governments struggle to cope with the consequences of the epidemic. As Khanam stated,
“They’re resilient, they’re survivors, but they need services.”

Five years of childhood of life are generally regarded as being the most crucial developmentally
of a child’s existence. From the beginning, children begin to build the neural structure they’ll
build upon throughout their lives. Thomason compares it to the construction of the foundation
and the scaffolding for the building. The early years of life are “a period of high neuroplasticity”
in which the brain’s development is rapid and environmental factors are particularly significant,
Thomason said. “Disruptions in this period are associated with bigger long-term outcomes as if
you’ve opened a chasm.”

The epidemic has definitely been full of interruptions. Children and babies were only interacting
with their immediate family for months at a. For Rene who is now five and, a student in Khanam’s class being with his peers affected him deeply his mother, Lucia Hernandez, said via an interpreter. Her skin began changing color during lockdown which she believes was a sign of stress.

Children’s opportunities to experience the world outside were drastically slowed down. When
the lockdown began, Bella, now 4 could not even visit the playground, according to her mother,
Gladys Vasquez, recalled. Even when Bella and her sister True were permitted to go out for a
second time and play, they weren’t allowed to interact with other children. “The park is not that
much fun when they’re by themselves,” said Vasquez who lives with her daughters in New
York’s Lower East Side, where Bella currently attends the Head Start school.

While the older children went to school online, kids who were younger had few social networks,
not even virtual ones, outside of their homes. The younger group of children had been “more
socially isolated than any other population,” stated Jennifer March, executive director of the
Citizens Committee to Protect Children in New York. a children’s advocacy group.

Children who are the youngest started experiencing the consequences of the pandemic before
they even had babies. The outbreak started researchers from Columbia University set out to
investigate the effects of the Covid-19 maternal infection on infants. It’s good to know that the
effect was minimal as the team observed no differences in the development of babies whose
mothers were infected throughout pregnancy and infants whose mothers did not have the

The researchers then examined all the infants they studied to infants born prior to the start of
the pandemic. They did notice some variations: babies born during the outbreak regardless of
whether they’d received exposure to Covid during the uterus, scored a bit lower than their
pre-pandemic peers in tests of fine motor, gross motor, and social/personal abilities.

As the researchers probed further, they discovered that there was the most significant effect
was seen in infants who were born to mothers in their first trimester at the time the pandemic hit
American shores in the early 2020s. The reason for this could be the prenatal exposure to
stress in the mother. “I have a 2-year-old who was born during peak pandemic,” explained
Lauren Shuffrey, an associate researcher of Columbia University Medical Center who
participated in the study. “It was a very stressful time for mothers.”

Her team isn’t the only one who has found the differences between children born prior to the
outbreak and those born prior to it. Researchers from Brown University found that infants scored
lower on tests for motor, language and visual abilities began declining in 2020, as Melinda
Wenner Moyer reported in Nature. The biggest differences were observed between boys and
children who came from families with low incomes; motor skills were among the most affected.
And rather than narrowing, the gap began to grow with the spread of the virus. “The magnitude
is massive — it’s just astonishing,” medical biophysicist Sean Deoni, who worked on the study
said in Nature.

Anecdotally families and teachers also observe the effects of the pandemic on infant children.
Bella has experienced issues regarding her voice, like the stuttering that her mother attributes to
the fact that she is isolated. “She was always home and not having someone always constantly
teaching [her] something,” Vasquez stated. “It’s hard for her to express herself verbally.”

Rene received speech therapy prior to when the pandemic began. After the lockdown, the
therapy changed to Zoom and it was not identical, Hernandez said. This was a frequent issue
that was causing the problem. an analysis of children in school with disabilities showed that 42
percent were denied access to any therapy in the initial three months after the epidemic, and 34
percent received at least one therapy via remote. While 40 percent of parents noticed
reductions in children’s social, behavioral, motor or communication skills, which they attributed
to changes in therapy.

The interruption of services had particular consequences for children who are children in the
earliest years. When normal when daycare or preschool teachers spot children who are that are
showing signs of developmental delay or disability they can recommend the child to
interventions for children, available in every state which can assist. State budgets are tight and
can make it difficult to gain the services you need even in the best times. However “if something
little is going on at 12 months, it’s so much better to intervene then,” rather instead of wait until
your child turns 6 or 5 years old, according to Bridget O’Rourke, associate executive director of
early preschool education at the Social Services Agency University Settlement.

However, during the lockdown, “early intervention services essentially came to a halt,” O’Rourke
claimed. Children who already received treatments were often not receiving these, and a lot of
kids who were classified as having disabilities or delays did not. The services are now starting to
resume however there’s an unfinished task to tackle and lots of families aren’t receiving help
quickly enough.

There are also the more invisible effects of the epidemic that are the many small loss such as
beaches, flower shops, and libraries. Khanam mentioned the psychologist, Lev Vygotsky’s
sociocultural theory of learning which posits that children develop through interactions with
children, adults, and their society in general. In the lockdown, children missed numerous
opportunities to connect with other children and their environment remains a mess prior to the
time the pandemic started, Khanam said. “They didn’t learn how to share; they didn’t learn how
to be compassionate about others.”

“If you look at the theory, and look at this group,” she stated, “We missed a big part of their life —
like a big, big chunk.”

Even today, a typical time spent at Corona Head Start may not be like it was before Covid came
to town. Parents drop off their children at the front of the building instead of going into the
school. Teachers were once able to eat breakfast and lunch with their students but now they
serve pancakes as well as bananas and milk and don masks while students are eating. If the
children are inclined to talk to each other at breakfast, a teacher needs to warn them to stay
away from being too close with their masks on.

It is good news for children and their family members, most of the damage caused by the
epidemic can be fixed. First of all, when stress-related effects can be felt in the womb at first,
adaptation may begin there as well. Thomason refers to an instance of “Dutch Hunger Winter”
of 1944-1945 when pregnant women were forced to survive on as low as 600 calories daily. The
study later found that their infants were born metabolically ready to eat a diet that was low in

“Our biology is so attuned to the situation,” Thomason explained. Pandemics are different from
a famine, however, the past has shown that children can adapt to the situation, too. “Even
though we think about early development as a time of heightened, let’s say, vulnerability,” she
stated, “it’s also a time when the brain is very plastic and well prepared to adapt.”

The youngest of children are sometimes more accustomed to the reality of the disease than
their older siblings who recollect and remember how things used to be. Her older sister, Bella
True 7 was stressed and upset in the lockdown, and unhappy to be absent from classes,
Vasquez said. In the case of Bella, “it really didn’t affect her too much” emotionally. “She was a
happy-go-lucky young lady.”

A few studies have suggested positive outcomes, but not necessarily related to the pandemic
however, it could be due to the increased amount of time that families spend together.
According to an analysis conducted by Thomason in families where parents had more
obligations as a result of the pandemic, for instance, because the parents had to be working at
home while caring for their children simultaneously children had higher outcomes than in
families where parental duties were not as high.

The pressure of working while taking care of children during a deadly epidemic was very
stress-inducing to many families. Millions of workers did not have the option to be at home.
Parents who were able to be able to, however, those stressful weeks (or years) could have
provided some positive outcomes for children’s development. “Maybe what we were seeing was
families that were more impacted in terms of parenting roles during the pandemic actually were
spending more time with their children, and their children were actually experiencing the
benefits,” Thomason explained.

Children of all ages may have had more interaction with their older siblings, which studies have
shown benefits the development of language and cognitive abilities, Thomason said. While the
pandemic has been difficult, as it has been Thomason believes it’s crucial not to conclude that
the past two years were completely detrimental for children.

“My strategy as a scientist, researcher, and mother has been to allow discussion of positives to
come into the conversation,” Thomason explained. “There’s a degree to which, as a society, we
are responsible for writing self-fulfilling prophecies in terms of what we take away from our

If research points to issues as a result of an epidemic, it’s not a reason to believe that they’ll
remain for the rest of their lives. Shuffrey who was a researcher at Columbia, Columbia researcher, stressed that her study was carried out on infants who were very young and the differences her team observed were minor. “It’s not as though a screening tool at six months is
predictive of one’s future,” she stated. “Kids have such resilience, I’m confident that these
children are going to be fine. However, it’s crucial to be vigilant and offer assistance, in the event of need.”

It’s a message that is being sent out both by researchers and educators It’s not the time to be
depressed about what children have suffered from the disease however, it is time to take action.
For Corona Head Start, what’s most urgently needed is more personnel to support children who
require the services of speech therapy and early intervention, and other assistance, according
to Lillian Rodriguez-Magliaro. She is the Director of the program at the center. Due to a shortage
in the state of educators, a few students are identified at school as in need of extra services as
of the beginning of the school year but aren’t yet receiving them. “What’s going to happen to the
children that don’t get served?” Rodriguez-Magliaro asked. “Our kids are moving into

It’s of particular concern for families with low incomes like the ones who the Corona program
assists that aren’t able to cover private therapy or other treatments in addition to the school. The
families they serve have already taken on more than a portion of the afflictions caused by the
virus and indeed, Corona, one of the first Covid epicenters across the nation has suffered the
loss of hundreds of residents due to the disease. A lot of parents, such as Hernandez who is a
housekeeper, were not employed during the lockdown of 2020, and many residents continue to
struggle to find work. Some worked outside of the home, as essential employees.

The children of remote-working parents didn’t experience the same increase in family bonding
time in the same way that children with parents who work remotely. Thomason believes that the
advantages of more interaction between parents during the outbreak are likely most
concentrated in middle- and upper-middle-class children with parents who could stay at home
with their children with relative security in financial and physical security. The disparity in income
between the effects of the pandemic “is probably the most significant thing we should all be
talking about,” she stated.

The solution to this problem will involve closing the access gap to services, which is expensive.
One of the main reasons for the dearth of educators and other school-based service providers is
the low wages triggered due to budget cuts for years Rodriguez-Magliaro stated.

“Teachers need to be paid more,” O’Rourke, of University Settlement, stated. This is especially
true for early childhood educators who are paid less than high and elementary school teachers,
despite the fact that they have longer hours and more school days.

Families also require support in caring for children in the midst of a continuing pandemic, say
experts. This includes paid time off to visit children who are ill with Covid or are in quarantine
following having been exposed, Shuffrey explained — an issue that is still a common event,
especially in daycares and preschools where children are too young to get vaccination-free.
Also, it includes help with access to child care. “Child care costs have gone up so significantly in the US in the past two years,” Shuffrey stated. “Being able to provide families with child care
that they can afford, so they can do things like work or take care of another family member,
could be really, really supportive on a more structural level.”

Children who are affected need a culture that respects individuals and does not dismiss them as
a lost generation. “Stop labeling them ‘pandemic children,'” Rodriguez-Magliaro stated. “It’s easy
to label so that you don’t have to reflect on the need.”

Despite the obstacles that she faces, she and the other children in The Child Center are
surrounded by positive examples of how children can flourish given the right guidance
regardless of the times they remain challenging. When Rene was allowed to return to school in
September of 2020 and began receiving speech therapy in person His communication skills
rapidly increased, Hernandez said. “You can tell that there’s been a change.”

Today, he’s a lively 5-year-old who is a hammer as he dances at the beat of “I’m a Gummy
Bear” and then throngs to at the back of the classroom with his pals as it’s time for them to look
at the caterpillar of the class which is about to create an encasement. When he begins playing
on the sand table in the class his classmate Ruby is eager to join him.

Despite being in a secluded space The kids in Classroom 9 have a tangible love for one another
now. They hug each other in dance class, construct imaginary houses for each other and
squabble over butterflies made of plastic and then let the butterflies hug. The typical school day
for them includes “a lot of complaining, a lot of giggling, a lot of running, a lot of correcting,”
Khanam explained “And at the same time, a lot of love.”

“When they grow up, I want to see them successful,” she states of the 18 children she works
with every day. For policymakers and those in the powerhouse she has a simple request: “Treat
them as human beings.”