from the world's big
'I hope he doesn't feel too lonely' — COVID-19 hits people with intellectual disabilities hard
Prior to COVID-19, 45% of people with intellectual disabilities reported feeling lonely.
My brother was supposed to move into his first "independent" home in mid-March. In his late 20s, and a person with an intellectual disability, he had finally gathered up the courage and the will to move out of our family home and live in a group home.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, my brother's move is now delayed indefinitely, and his world remains mostly his bedroom. He can't go to his part-time job, the library, or to church.
My brother and many others with intellectual disabilities face the additional burden of increased loneliness during COVID-19. While many people are experiencing isolation, anxiety and loneliness during this challenging time, we know that prior to COVID-19, 45% of people with intellectual disabilities reported feeling lonely (that's compared to only 10.5% of the general population). The increased pressures living in quarantine can result in challenges to mental health, sleep disruptions and mood swings.
We know that loneliness is correlated with serious health risks such as heart disease, weakened immune systems and stroke. For people with intellectual disabilities who had already long experienced loneliness and social ostracization, what significant impacts might this have on their mental and physical health? Many COVID-19 patients die alone. For people with intellectual disabilities already experiencing severe loneliness, this fact seems particularly cruel.
People with intellectual disabilities often utilize resources such as home health aides, day programmes, drop-in centres, family respite services and group homes. For health and safety reasons, many of these services are now unavailable or closed, increasing the responsibility of family members, affecting the routine of people with intellectual disabilities and significantly impacting their independence. My brother is not able to go to his state-funded part-time job, removing his interaction with others outside of our immediate family and taking away the sense of purpose he felt by doing work.
These COVID-19-related service changes also reveal the complex interdependencies with families, caregivers and staff that most people with intellectual disabilities depend on in their day-to-day lives. In China, a family made headlines when a teenager with cerebral palsy died in Wuhan after his father and brother, diagnosed with coronavirus, were quarantined in a treatment facility and unable to care for him.
Some people with intellectual disabilities are not able to quarantine alone or stay with their families due to their enhanced medical or behavioural needs. Remaining in group homes or similar long-term care facilities can allow people with intellectual disabilities access to the care they need, but may put them at a much greater risk of infection. For people with intellectual disabilities who live independently or semi-independently but rely on home health aides, they and their families weigh the risk of exposing themselves to infection or not receiving the daily life supports they need.
In addition to all of the health and safety guidelines we all must decipher and follow, people with intellectual disabilities face increased challenges when it comes to staying safe during COVID-19. My brother and many like him have had their daily routine disrupted completely, a challenge for many people with intellectual disabilities. Understanding the rapidly changing information about COVID-19 or updates to public health guidance can be puzzling, and people with intellectual disabilities may struggle to communicate without non-verbal cues.
In Saskatoon, Canada, some people with intellectual disabilities were so confused about the public health guidance to social distance that they went without groceries or other necessities. It is unlikely that my brother really understands the importance of washing his hands or remembers how to do so correctly, even after seeing a video or reading a detailed pamphlet.
Organizations that support and advocate on behalf of people with intellectual disabilities are working hard to continue to provide services and resources, even amid reduced revenue and logistical challenges. Inclusion Europe has produced an easy-to-read instructional guide about coronavirus, designed for people with intellectual disabilities, available in several languages. The UN has produced resources about how to include marginalized and vulnerable people, including those with intellectual disabilities, in risk communication and community engagement. The International Disability Alliance has issued specific recommendations for a disability-inclusive COVID-19 response.
People with intellectual disabilities face the prospect of navigating a healthcare system that is rationing care. During a time of resource scarcity, like the one many countries are experiencing during COVID-19, there simply aren't enough resources for every patient that needs them. When this occurs, medical professionals need to decide which patients receive these resources, thus rationing out the care that is available.
In Italy, there are many stories of hospitals too overwhelmed with patients to ventilate every person who needs it – medical professionals are forced to make heartbreaking choices about who receives care.
In the United States, the disability community, including the American Association of People With Disabilities, has advocated strongly against guidance in disaster preparedness plans such as those released by states like Washington, Kansas, Tennessee and Alabama that recommend end-of-life decisions that could disadvantage people with disabilities, including some that do not recommend providing ventilators to those with "severe mental retardation". Disability advocates assert that these policies directly impact civil rights. In response, the director of the federal health department's civil rights office has begun investigations, and some of these states, including Washington and Kansas, are in the process of updating their guidelines to ensure they do not implicitly or explicitly condone discrimination.
Still, the fear and uncertainty associated with rationing of care is deeply disturbing to people with intellectual disabilities, who are worried that medical professionals, forced to make quick decisions and without a full understanding of their capacity and medical history, might prevent them from receiving medical resources.
People with disabilities and their advocates rightly point out that doctors may make assumptions about people with disabilities based on bias. These fears are supported by research that ableism in medicine does exist. People with intellectual disabilities and their family members remember unethical medical research done on people with intellectual disabilities in the name of science, like those experiments done on unwilling participants at Willowbrook State School in New York. People with intellectual disabilities are still subject to forced sterilization around the world.
For now, I am grateful that my brother doesn't seem to understand all the fuss around COVID-19 and I'm relieved that he's stuck at home. I hope that he doesn't feel too lonely. When I think of the inevitable time when we are allowed to return to our community, I wonder if my brother will follow hygiene guidelines. Will he stay away from people who are coughing? Will he tell us if he has a fever? For now, if he has to go to the hospital, I have to hope that his life is considered as valuable as someone without a disability.
- Dogs help humans with disabilities socialize with others ... ›
- Interview: The big challenges for work in the COVID-19 pandemic ... ›
- Coronavirus: The economics of contagious disease - Big Think ›
- Digital services are making isolation easier – unless you're disabled - Big Think ›
- Digital services are making isolation easier – unless you have a disability - Big Think ›
- Digital services for people with disabilities during COVID - Big Think ›
- Covid-19 shutdown prevented 60 million infections in U.S., study says - Big Think ›
- COVID-19 shutdown prevented 60 million infections in U.S. - Big Think ›
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
From "if-by-whiskey" to the McNamara fallacy, being able to spot logical missteps is an invaluable skill.
- A fallacy is the use of invalid or faulty reasoning in an argument.
- There are two broad types of logical fallacies: formal and informal.
- A formal fallacy describes a flaw in the construction of a deductive argument, while an informal fallacy describes an error in reasoning.
Appeal to privacy<p>When someone behaves in a way that negatively affects (or could affect) others, but then gets upset when others criticize their behavior, they're likely engaging in the appeal to privacy — or "mind your own business" — fallacy. Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who speeds excessively on the highway, considering his driving to be his own business.</li><li>Someone who doesn't see a reason to bathe or wear deodorant, but then boards a packed 10-hour flight.</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "You're not the boss of me." "Worry about yourself."</p>
Sunk cost fallacy<p>When someone argues for continuing a course of action despite evidence showing it's a mistake, it's often a sunk cost fallacy. The flawed logic here is something like: "We've already invested so much in this plan, we can't give up now." Examples:<br></p><ul><li>Someone who intentionally overeats at an all-you-can-eat buffet just to get their "money's worth"</li><li>A scientist who won't admit his theory is incorrect because it would be too painful or costly</li></ul><p>Language to watch out for: "We must stay the course." "I've already invested so much...." "We've always done it this way, so we'll keep doing it this way."</p>
If-by-whiskey<p>This fallacy is named after a speech given in 1952 by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noah_S._Sweat" target="_blank">Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr.</a>, a state representative for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi" target="_blank">Mississippi</a>, on the subject of whether the state should legalize alcohol. Sweat's argument on prohibition was (to paraphrase):<br></p><p><em>If, by whiskey, you mean the devil's brew that causes so many problems in society, then I'm against it. But if whiskey means the oil of conversation, the philosopher's wine, "</em><em>the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning;" then I am certainly for it.</em></p>
Slippery slope<p>This fallacy involves arguing against a position because you think choosing it would start a chain reaction of bad things, even though there's little evidence to support your claim. Example:<br></p><ul><li>"We can't allow abortion because then society will lose its general respect for life, and it'll become harder to punish people for committing violent acts like murder."</li><li>"We can't legalize gay marriage. If we do, what's next? Allowing people to marry cats and dogs?" (Some people actually made this <a href="https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/national/cats-marrying-dogs-and-five-other-things-same-sex-marriage-won-mean/dLV9jKqkJOWUFZrSBETWkK/" target="_blank">argument</a> before same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.)</li></ul><p>Of course, sometimes decisions <em>do </em>start a chain reaction, which could be bad. The slippery slope device only becomes a fallacy when there's no evidence to suggest that chain reaction would actually occur.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "If we do that, then what's next?"</p>
"There is no alternative"<p><span style="background-color: initial;">A modification of the </span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma" target="_blank" style="background-color: initial;">false dilemma</a><span style="background-color: initial;">, this fallacy (often abbreviated to TINA) argues for a specific position because there are no realistic alternatives. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used this exact line as a slogan to defend capitalism, and it's still used today to that same end: Sure, capitalism has its problems, but we've seen the horrors that occur when we try anything else, so there is no alternative.</span><br></p><p>Language to watch out for: "If I had a magic wand…" "What <em>else</em> are we going to do?!"</p>
Ad hoc arguments<p>An ad hoc argument isn't really a logical fallacy, but it is a fallacious rhetorical strategy that's common and often hard to spot. It occurs when someone's claim is threatened with counterevidence, so they come up with a rationale to dismiss the counterevidence, hoping to protect their original claim. Ad hoc claims aren't designed to be generalizable. Instead, they're typically invented in the moment. <a href="https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ad_hoc" target="_blank">RationalWiki</a> provides an example:<br></p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It is clearly said in the Bible that the Ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Bob: "A purely wooden vessel of that size could not be constructed; the largest real wooden vessels were Chinese treasure ships which required iron hoops to build their keels. Even the <em>Wyoming</em> which was built in 1909 and had iron braces had problems with her hull flexing and opening up and needed constant mechanical pumping to stop her hold flooding."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">Alice: "It's possible that God intervened and allowed the Ark to float, and since we don't know what gopher wood is, it is possible that it is a much stronger form of wood than any that comes from a modern tree."</p>
Snow job<p><span style="background-color: initial;">This fallacy occurs when someone doesn't really have a strong argument, so they just throw a bunch of irrelevant facts, numbers, anecdotes and other information at the audience to confuse the issue, making it harder to refute the original claim. Example:</span><br></p><ul><li>A tobacco company spokesperson who is confronted about the health risks of smoking, but then proceeds to show graph after graph depicting many of the other ways people develop cancer, and how cancer metastasizes in the body, etc.</li></ul><p>Watch out for long-winded, data-heavy arguments that seem confusing by design.</p>
McNamara fallacy<p>Named after <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_McNamara" target="_blank">Robert McNamara</a>, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Secretary_of_Defense" target="_blank">U.S. secretary of defense</a> from 1961 to 1968, this fallacy occurs when decisions are made based solely on <em>quantitative metrics or observations,</em> ignoring other factors. It stems from the Vietnam War, in which McNamara sought to develop a formula to measure progress in the war. He decided on bodycount. But this "objective" formula didn't account for other important factors, such as the possibility that the Vietnamese people would never surrender.<br></p><p>You could also imagine this fallacy playing out in a medical situation. Imagine a terminal cancer patient has a tumor, and a certain procedure helps to reduce the size of the tumor, but also causes a lot of pain. Ignoring quality of life would be an example of the McNamara fallacy.</p><p>Language to watch out for: "You can't measure that, so it's not important."</p>
A new study looks at what would happen to human language on a long journey to other star systems.
- A new study proposes that language could change dramatically on long space voyages.
- Spacefaring people might lose the ability to understand the people of Earth.
- This scenario is of particular concern for potential "generation ships".
Generation Ships<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a1e6445c7168d293a6da3f9600f534a2"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H2f0Wd3zNj0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Many of the most popular apps are about self-improvement.
Emotions are the newest hot commodity, and we can't get enough.