Parents of special needs children call for Covid test alternative
- Credit: supplied
Parents of children with complex needs have called for an alternative to swab testing for coronavirus, which they say can be distressing and difficult to administer.
They say that current swab tests can be incredibly difficult for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and that LAMP (loop-mediated isothermal amplification) tests - a rapid Covid test using saliva - are less invasive.
Some parents have been forced to pin down children who need swab tests for medical procedures, while others are missing out on education.
Mother Caroline Sykes said: "My daughter Isla, she's 10 and has Down's syndrome, she can't tolerate the nasal swab, she doesn't understand it.
"I've tried to get her to do it but she only puts it to her nose and it won't be effective.
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"She had to shield in the past because of a heart condition as a child."
Fellow mum Maxine Webb, whose son, Harry, 11, also has Down's syndrome, said LAMP tests would help limit the spread of the virus, making it safer for everyone.
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"These kids could be going to school and getting an education," she said.
"It's depressing to be in a situation that seems so avoidable."
Ms Webb, who is a Labour county councillor in Norwich's Wensum area, said government guidance acknowledges SEND children may find swab tests difficult, but that policy remains the same.
LAMP tests are used in complex needs schools in Northern Ireland.
Both parents said friends have had to pin their children down for swabs needed for medical procedures, which can affect the trust between a parent and child.
Ms Webb said: "The thought of it is horrendous, it's really invasive, especially when you don't know why it needs to be done."
"It could freak her out, she won't understand why we're having to do this," Ms Sykes said.
"People with disabilities are missing out on their education.
"Isla could go back [to school] and it could happen again and then it's another 10 days off school after already having 18 months off."
A UK Health Security Agency spokesperson said: “We have been using LAMP testing in educational settings as part of an ongoing trial in Southampton.
“We are still considering plans to deploy LAMP tests on a wider scale, including in additional educational settings.”