Twin Falls adults with disabilities hope for a return to normalcy sometime soon

With COVID-19 cases heading downward in the Gem State and vaccines being rolled out, one group of special adults said a return to normalcy can’t come soon enough.
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 10:34 AM MST
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — With COVID-19 cases heading downward in the Gem State and vaccines being rolled out, many Idahoans are hoping for a return to normalcy sometime soon, and one group of special adults said it can’t come soon enough.

Kodie James of Filer is an adult with a disability, and she told KMVT recently that since COVID-19 hit it has been hard for her to stay in contact with her friends.

“We haven’t done Special Olympics,” James said. “We haven’t done special forces. We have not done bowling, Halloween dances, prom.”

Jared Dirksen, who is also living with a disability, said it’s been difficult for him too.

“My mom and I were volunteering at the Mustard Seed but we haven’t been able to since COVID,” Dirksen said.

Both James and Dirksen are residents at Western Connections in Twin Falls, a Residential Habilitation Agency for Adults with Disabilities. Hilary Western, who is the owner, said it’s important for adults with disabilities to maintain regular routines, and COVID disrupted that.

“When things shut down last March all bets were off,” she said. “They didn’t know where they were going from day to day. If they were going to be able to see their families, if they were going to be able to make it to their appointments, and things were a real big challenge.”

She said her agency is currently assisting 12 participants with daily living skills from getting up for the day to helping them pay their bills. But her staff has had to take on an extra task by helping the residents deal with the stress, anxiety and loneliness that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to their lives.

“Because of health reasons and safety they have not been able to get out and socialize with their friend groups as they have in the past,” Western said. “Because of those limited social experiences, a little bit more of a feeling of loneliness and anxiety.”

To help the residents out Western and her staff have put together smaller social circles for them to participate in, and they found activities that the residents can do at home.

“We have found that so many of our participants love Diamond Art,” Western said. “So just finding things that they can do safely and enjoy at home has been an obstacle, but we have been able to do a good job at that.”

James said she has been having fun with Diamond Art and cooking things that require a sweet tooth like cookies and cheesecake.

Western said several of the participants have cell phones and social media, and they have been able to stay in touch with friends and family that way.

“There is a good handful of them that don’t have that technology, and it makes it difficult to stay in touch with friends and family members,” Western said.

She said when it comes to her residents dealing with COVID it is kind of a “spectrum.” Some of the participants understand the science behind the virus and everything, and for others, they explain it in more of a basic way.

“Things that they can do to keep themselves safe, and that is really what we focus on,” Western said. “Instead of being scared of getting the virus, what can we do to take steps to prevent getting the virus (wash hands, watch distance, wear a mask).”

But things are starting to look up at Western Connections. Western said they are excited that three of their participants will participate in the Special Olympic Winter Games on Feb. 27 at Magic Mountain.

“To be able to participate in Special Olympics, that is another gaping hole that has been left in the lives of our participants,” Western said. “They haven’t been able to participate in Special Olympics for the past year.”

Dirksen said he is looking forward to participating in the Special Olympic Winter Games and wants to win a gold medal.

James said she is looking forward to finding a job sometime soon, possibly in the spring or summer. She said she would like to work at the hospital delivering meals. She also said she would also like to go camping sometime soon.

“Hope to get together friends. I have been missing them,” James said.

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