Staying connected is important for everybody but remember, not everybody can communicate digitally.

Disability Programs provide all sorts of community activities for people living with a disability (PWD) so what happens when they have to stop?  Unfortunately, this is what has happened due to social distancing and non-essential travel restrictions.

I know that this is essential in this new world we are living in and I also know that there isn’t a lot we can do about it.  We need to be staying home and flattening the curve.

What I do want is for people to think about PWD – particularly those with an intellectual disability.

I was speaking with an older mum today who told me her daughter has been attending programs and activities with the same friends she went to special school with.  For over 20 years, they have been seeing each other regularly and enjoying a bunch of different activities together.

They had found their tribe.  Their circle of friends.

They know and understand each other, they don’t see somebody with a disability; they see their friends and they are there to support each other – no questions asked!

All of a sudden they can no longer do this.  Their activities and routines have stopped or at least changed which for many causes anxiety and additional challenges.

How does a person with an intellectual disability or developmental issues cope with this?  I have been speaking with some families and support workers and there have been instances where PWD think they have done something wrong and outings have been withdrawn as a punishment.  They can’t hug their friends and are quite possibly met with somebody pushing them away saying “no, no, no hugging”.  I find this very sad.

It is a very anxious time for many of us but I would like you to think about how families with a PWD are coping with these social changes and how difficult it is to explain what is going on in the World without causing more angst and uncertainty.   

There are many resources out there to help families better explain this new world to PWD and I would encourage people to seek these out or call and talk to providers who can offer support at this time. 

We also need to keep in mind that not everybody has access to on-line resources.  Not everybody can use face-time and log into a Zoom meeting.  Some older people don’t have smart phones so we all need to remember that we may need to go back to that old-fashioned method of communication – pick up the phone and say hello or, even better, send a letter.  I recently saw a video of a young man with Down syndrome who was missing contact with his friends.  His local community started sending him letters, puzzles and pictures in the post.  This gave him and his family so much joy just knowing that his community cared.

Staying connected is important for everybody but remember, not everybody can communicate digitally.

All over the world people are changing their routines and the way they do things out of necessity.  What I have learnt when talking to families is that it isn’t that simple for PWD. 

We need to take up the challenge and work out how best to communicate and support PWD and their families so we get through this together.