A few months ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with a few Hand in Hand parents and interview them. I wanted to share how the COVID-19 pandemic had affected them and their children and acknowledge the negative outcomes as well as some silver lining moments of living in such a time as this.
These video interviews provide a record of collective experiences, ones many of us will relate to, as well as challenges unique to each speaker. Their stories share the very real effect of COVID-19 on children and their families and communicate powerful lessons about how the unprecedented social isolation that has accompanied this historical time has impacted the lives of individuals who have a disability, high-risk diagnosis, and anxiety.
They are also inspirational profiles of resiliency, adaptation, reconnection and taking Zoom meetings to a whole new level!
Today I want to share Christa and Nathan’s story of overcoming social barriers, establishing a new ‘normal’, and the creative ways their close group of friends supported each other-zoom parties anyone?
Something Christa said in her interview really stuck with me. She shared that while most of Nathan’s peers turned to social media to connect to each other during the long days of quarantine when schools were closed and social outlets were few, this was a barrier for Nathan. Unable to type, read texts, or use Snapchat and Instagram in the absence of in-person contact, this very social teen experienced a whole new sense of social isolation.
Nathan is a cool 16-year-old Bettendorf High School student who plays Dek Hockey, performs in musicals, attends most Hand in Hand activities, and loves to share his talent for making balloon animals. However, unlike his BHS peers, Nathan was born with Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (ACC), an incomplete development of the nerve fibers that connect the two hemispheres of our brain, allowing the left and right sides to communicate and share information. Since Nathan thrives in social situations where he has time to process spoken word and respond, it is easy for him to be left behind in the lightning-fast speed of social exchanges that dominate our culture.
In the absence of a smart phone and outside activities to connect with peers, Nathan’s parents became his everything-his caregivers, friends, and eventually teachers navigating on-line learning with him, all while working full-time jobs. In their wisdom, they found new ways of connecting as a family to provide Nathan with novel experiences to replace the social outlets that had previously provided acceptance, friends and opened his world to all our Quad-City community had to offer. Yet rather than focusing on the loss, Christa remembers that slowing down and redefining fun was a silver lining in their COVID-19 experience that eventually led to creative connections with Nathan’s close group of friends, who refer to themselves as ‘the squad’, and their moms, aptly named the ‘squad moms’.
Their examples of planning COVID-safe scavenger hunts, small get-togethers, and parties via Zoom are a reminder of the beauty that often accompanies change and made me think; who really needs social media when you have a family, friends, and rich life like Nathan’s?