Campbell University Students Create COVID-Related Social Story for Exceptional Children

Students at Campbell University’s Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine are taking a multimedia approach to helping exceptional children better understand the coronavirus and what they can do to keep themselves—and others—healthy during the pandemic.

Kayla Distin and Jack Thomas are leaders of the Exceptional Camels Interest Group, a sub-group of the Campbell Medicine Pediatrics Club. They partnered with illustrator Sumerlyn Carruthers to create the “Coronavirus Social Story,” an animated video that can be viewed on the Campbell Medicine YouTube Channel. Print copies of the story are also available.

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“The idea for the story came from our passion to care for exceptional children,” said Thomas, a second-year student. “We hope it will be helpful to all children, but we wanted to create something that could specifically help teachers and parents of exceptional children.”

Every superhero, including a child’s immune system, needs a sidekick.

“Rural special-needs children and their families are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to lack of access to relatable and understandable educational materials,” added Distin. “We hope this resource can serve as an interactive and accessible way for this population to learn about COVID-19 and ways to slow down its spread.”

“Everybody has an immune system hero inside of them,” one of the video’s narrators notes. But every hero needs a sidekick, and that’s where young viewers with special needs get to play their part—like true superheroes.

The video goes on to explain how to effectively wash your hands and practice social distancing. It recommends maintaining a distance of two arms length between friends and offering a “big thumbs-up” instead of a high-five. “When you see your friend, give them a big happy smile instead of a hug,” the video advises.

“An immune system sidekick gets to wear a mask in public—how cool!” the narration continues. “This may feel uncomfortable, but it helps keep germs from getting into our bodies. It may look a little scary to see people covering their face, but don’t worry: They are immune-system sidekicks just like you.”

Exceptional Camels Interest Group focuses on providing engaging opportunities for medical students to interact with individuals who have physical and intellectual disabilities.

“They did such a wonderful job getting such an important message across to a potentially vulnerable population,” said Dr. David Tolentino, associate dean for clinical affairs at Campbell University, a Sullivan Foundation partner school. “I especially like how they explain the importance of masks and not to be afraid of them because this is definitely a potential issue with children and exceptional members of our community regarding such a key concept in preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

This story has been edited from the original version appearing on the Campbell University website.

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