Coronavirus Poses Challenges for Individuals With Special Needs

A suburban recreation facility has made virtual activities available during Illinois' stay-at-home order

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The nation’s efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus may be making some feel isolated at home, but for people with special needs, that feeling can be difficult to understand.

Kelsey Marks, 27, of Glen Ellyn is used to visiting the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association (WDSRA) facility three days a week to spend time with friends and participate in group activities.  But Kelsey’s mother, Patrice Marks, said the in-person visits with friends came to a halt last month when the stay-at-home order was enacted.

“Kelsey was really confused about why can’t I be with my friends, why can’t I go to work, why can’t I do all these things that I was doing before?” said Patrice.

However, the staff at WDSRA said gifts to the organization are helping to reduce the isolation of its participants and providing ways for them to stay connected.  WDSRA serves around 4,000 people with special needs and it recently created virtual events and programs for its members to participate in at home.

“We’re trying to do the best we can to keep in front of them, keep them active, keep them engaged, keep them connected to their friends and also give their parents a break,” said WDSRA marketing/PR manager Sherry Manschot.

Patrice said Kelsey is now able to spend time participating in virtual programs and exercise activities.

“They get to see all their friends on the screen and it’s just been awesome. It’s been a godsend,” said Patrice.

WDSRA encourages family and friends of people with special needs to consider special recreation groups.  And reaching out to a family member, friend or neighbor with special needs can help.

“Find out how they’re doing. Ask them what they’ve been doing. Maybe suggest a few things that they might be willing to be able to do,” Manschot said.  “It’s really just keeping in touch with people that makes a difference.

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