When looking back at the year of COVID-19 2020, I am sure all of us could come up with at least five to ten words, emojis, or facial expressions to describe the experience. One of my vivid memories is of me stalking toilet paper as if I were a tiger hunting its prey. However, as we all know 2020 was not all a laughing matter. Many parents and caregivers found themselves becoming co-teachers, tutors, hall monitors, chiefs, nurses, all-day providers, and entertainers all within the home. I am not sure about you, but I learned what areas in life I am not talented or patient in. COVID-19 caused many with disabilities to become isolated from friends, direct service providers, and family. Individuals that once enjoyed attending day programs, therapies, school, work, and social outings were forced to stay home to stay safer. Thriving support systems were now compressed. As a country, we had to look at how to be person-centered during a pandemic for people with and without disabilities. Companies flocked to Zoom to maintain businesses and employee stability. As a world, we have coined names such as “Zoom Fatigue,” and have come up with creative solutions to prevent it or embrace it (Ramachadran, 2021). The pandemic caused the world to take a deep dive and look at the truths about cultural disparities, and racial and systemic inequality.
As I reflect on 2020, and now that we are seven months into a more promising 2021 with vaccinations, one word that comes to mind for me is endurance. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, endurance means, “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.” In March 2020 disability agencies, all over the country became more innovative and virtually mobilized to ensure that individuals could have some form of normalcy. Doctor offices and mental health professionals began using Telehealth with individuals and families. Service providers made goody bags filled with reading books, coloring books, fidget toys, crafts, and graciously put them on doorsteps, putting smiles on many faces. Others went to Zoom offering yoga, trivia, and dance classes. These are all wonderful demonstrations of taking a person-centered approach with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Let us take a look into what a Person-Centered approach means and how we can continue it within our communities and with our loved ones. A person-centered approach means including the individual and focusing on their wants, needs, interest, and what that looks like for them now and in the future. When looking at an individual with disabilities holistically, anyone’s perceptions of their needs and wants can vary from person to person. However, the interdisciplinary team can include but is not limited to an individual’s parents, siblings, the community, close friends, society, therapist, behaviorist, case manager, teachers, primary care, and residential team. It is also helpful to include a facilitator that can offer the individual equitable, neutral, and unbiased advice. Being person-centered also means supporting the individual with important decision-making. For instance, does the person feel like they need support with money or health management? If so the person and their team could discuss Power of Attorney options. No decision small or big should be made without the input of the individual.
At The Arc Arapahoe & Douglas Counties, advocates get asked what is the best way to support a person with decision making if they have cognitive deficits, no guardian or family, or are non-verbal. The answer would be to explain information in a language-friendly way and continue to be inclusive. The individual’s team typically knows the person the best and can work together with the person to determine what the individual may feel is in his or her best interest. Although COVID-19 seemingly separated many of us through social distancing; it shined a light on the importance of continuing to being person-centered for individuals with disabilities. As we get back to our “new normal” I would like to leave you with a popular COVID-19 saying, “We are all in this together.” (Lynch, 2020)
Written by Michelle Perry
Lynch, Jason. “CBS Stars Vow ‘We’re All in This Together’ in New PSA.” Adweek, Adweek, 18 Mar. 2020, www.adweek.com/convergent-tv/cbs-stars-vow-were-all-in-this-together-in-psa-to-calm-coronavirus-fears/.
Merriam-Webster. “Endurance.” Merriam-Webster, 8 June 2021, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/endurance.
Stanford University, “Four Causes for ‘Zoom Fatigue’ and Their Solutions.” Stanford News, 1 Mar. 2021, news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/.