Marcia Squire-Wood talks about the support her daughter Ruby has received from her church during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Lockdown started for Ruby on March 17th when I had to come and collect her from school with a high temperature. Honestly, I was filled with uncertainty, as I had no idea what to expect when caring for a sick teenager during the pandemic. Thankfully, Ruby’s high temperature did not affect her much, and as a family we soon adjusted to the “New normal” of home schooling two daughters and juggling work demands.
Every morning Ruby and her sister settled down at 9.00 and embarked on the day’s home schooling with some degree of enthusiasm and lots of encouragement from my husband and myself. From the outset, Ruby’s special school devised a Covid-19 PECS story book, which enabled us to explain to Ruby what was happening in the world and the reason why she was not going to the special Olympics swimming, the Girls’ Brigade, ballet and most importantly, church on Sunday.
As parents, we knew from an early age that we wanted to include Ruby in as many community-based activities as possible in order to ensure she was part of the community and to reduce the isolation that she may experience due to her disability. Going into lockdown has had a huge impact on her ability to connect with other girls in different settings.
Ruby is fifteen years old and has Down’s syndrome –Trisomy 21. She was also diagnosed with ADHD when she was six years old. I noticed that Ruby was feeling isolated, which presented itself in her talking to herself loudly. She has always enjoyed acting and talking to imaginary friends, however, this worsened in week six of the lockdown. This was really frustrating for us as a family, as we were all trying to work from home.
How the church helped Ruby
At the start of lockdown our Baptist church had set up a weekly Girls’ Brigade zoom meeting. Initially I did not see the importance of ensuring that Ruby joined the Girls’ Brigade group, as it clashed with my weekly team meeting. However, once Ruby joined, I saw an instant difference in her mood. She would chuckle with joy as she took part in the structured activities set up by the Girls’ Brigade leader. They sang hymns and prayed as a group which clearly benefited Ruby spiritually, as she has been drawn to going to Sunday school from a very young age and loves the choir. She skipped around the house as she searched for items that were integral part of the games during zoom meetings. The meetings gave Ruby the opportunity to be part of the social group that she was missing educationally. The Girls’ Brigade leader utilised these sessions to also check on the girl’s emotional well-being, whilst incorporating a large dose of fun. I am grateful and impressed by the continual support that the Baptist church has offered Ruby, and she has welcomed every meeting by waiting by the laptop for the session to start. Without this spiritual support, Ruby would be further marginalised. The new normal has only highlighted how socially isolated children with disabilities can be. I am proud that our local Baptist church has embraced the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and proved to be an inclusive setting that welcomes all through its doors.
This article previously appeared in SEN 108.
Marcia Squire-Wood is a social worker lecturer at Birmingham City University and currently leads the first placement module as well as teaching on a range of other modules.
As a mother of three children, one of whom has Downs syndrome, Trisomy 21 and ADHD, she is passionate about inclusion and aims to promote her daughter's involvement in the community.