It has been a long, dark, damp winter, full of isolation, loneliness, and pandemic restrictions, but the green trees and budding flowers are driving the point home that it might finally be time to venture back outside!
The promise of warmer weather is greatly appreciated, but during the time of COVID-19, it is also not without its stressors.
What is safe? What is open? What respite and recreational programs are available? And how will my loved one with a developmental disability feel about our re-entry into the outside world?
The worries are legitimate and the answers are complicated.
In our family, we’re taking baby steps.
After a year of virtual movie dates, my sixteen-year-old autistic son Nate had his first in-person date with his girlfriend in over a year— a meetup for frozen yogurt.
I admit that our social skills were a little rusty after a year of isolation, and our anxiety about going places was a little high, but the short venture into the outside world was delicious for so many reasons. We are looking forward to more face-to- face dates this summer, and hope to plan some low-key hangouts with his friends too.
We’re also planning to take advantage of the state’s respite opportunities by registering for a few short DDA-contracted summer camps.
Nate is nervous after over a year of not attending camp, but I know he will love it once he gets back into the groove of things. He is a teenager who desperately needs to ditch the comfort of being at his parents’ side and to re-join the world, and I’m doing what I can to make that happen.
Lastly, Nate plans to spend time this summer at his first ever part-time job. We took a chance and reached out to a local private park in our neighborhood, and they let us know they value the contributions of teens of all abilities, and that they’d love to hire him.
They are looking forward to having him on their staff, and to supporting him as he learns what it means to be an employee for the first time.
Of course with all of these plans, I’m worried about the dangers of COVID, but after weighing Nate’s individual health risks against his need to socialize and access his community, I’ve decided to trust that the camps and parks he’ll be spending time in are taking the precautions needed to keep everyone safe.
With the right precautions, a world of adventure awaits.
Washington summers are short but stunning. COVID is making things tricky, but with the right precautions and planning, a world of sunshine and adventure awaits. Here are a few places to look for some ideas:
Keep it Simple, Be Creative
Connect with friends for small get-togethers. Frozen yogurt was a ton of fun, and
so is a short hike in the woods or a visit to the farm to pick blueberries. Be creative and take advantage of what your neighborhood has to offer.
Connect with Parent to Parent
Contact Parent to Parent in your county to find out what recreational options are available locally for youth with I/DD and their families.
Get Out and Move
- Check out Seattle Children’s 35 Ways to Move Your Body This Summer for fun ideas.
- Join Spirit Club, hosted by The Arc of King County, is a free virtual exercise class for people of all abilities.
- Find and visit ADA accessible state parks with free or reduced passes for persons with disabilities.
Find links to these resources and more.
Request DDA Services
The Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) offers respite services that can be used in community settings. Check with your DDA Case Manager to find a list of contracted respite providers in your area. If your family member is DDA eligible, but not receiving services, visit DDA’s Service and Information Request page to request respite or other services.
Be Person Centered
Explore your family member’s interests and hobbies. Don’t assume the only options are the ones created specifically for people with I/DD. Searching for ideas based on the passions of the person themselves is a wonderful way to create a person-centered life this summer.
Rachel is the coordinator of Parent to Parent at the Arc of King County. Parent to Parent helps connect parents to resources, information, and most importantly, other parents. Read more of Rachel’s writing and life with Nate at nemhouse.com, where she and her husband Brian share their “imperfections and lessons learned on parenting, career, and wellness.”