When COVID-19 hit Eastern Connecticut, Andrew fell into a funk. Since high school, the 41-year-old man with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) had actively participated in structured, specialized programs to learn to perform tasks independently and to stay active.
“For about eight weeks, he just slept around the clock,” his mother, Sharon, of Scotland, says. “He was really down in the dumps. It was so unexpected. He did not even want to join family activities.”
Virtual programming from The Arc Eastern Connecticut perked Andrew up. “The Zoom sessions have been a lifeline,” Sharon says. “Maybe even literally.”
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When The Arc offered virtual programming, Sharon didn’t think Andrew would be up for two sessions daily, but he surprised her. “He was right there! He does not want to miss a moment. He looks forward to it every day. I don’t know what we’d be doing if we were living in the 1918 pandemic without all these technical supports.”
Pamela, John and Melanie live in Niantic. Melanie, 32, was going like gangbusters in The Arc’s vocational program, baking Classic Crunch Chocolate Chip Cookies at ShopRite in New London. “That whole program, with the cookie baking and how you sell those cookies, is one of the most innovative programs in the country,” John said.
Melanie’s job involved mixing dry ingredients into batter as her friend Sean added eggs and butter. “The cookie job became a real job,” John said, “and she was very proud of that. We’re looking forward to when it’s appropriate for her to resume her career.”
Although The Arc ECT lawn crew operated throughout the pandemic, in recent weeks the agency launched a cautious reopening of its remaining microbusinesses: a cookie-baking venture, a thrift emporium and a recycling center in Woodstock.
Meantime, Melanie also is busy with virtual supports including a morning Book Club and afternoon Zoom session where she tours aquariums, zoos — and even Disneyland. She takes classes ranging from cooking to dance.
“I want to commend the staff,” Sharon said. “This [virtual programming] is not an easy thing to do. It really is the next best thing to being there.”
Kathleen Stauffer is chief executive officer of The Arc Eastern Connecticut. For information on The Arc, go to www.TheArcECT.org. For more articles by this author visit www.kathleenstauffer.com