When a Mask Broke a Camel’s Back: How to Love and Care for Children with Disabilities During Covid-19
03 August 2020
CCTI is blessed to have our teammate, Natalie Flicker, share her life with disabilities with us and to keep us grounded on the struggles of many that we may not know about otherwise. We pray you are equally blessed by her reminder to us all and that you can use the information to be on the look-out for how you can help those who may be struggling around you.
In the past few months, everyone’s life has been turned upside down. However, the vast amount of conversations and questions on how to live and react does not include the additional needs of people or children with disabilities.
I have lived with mild Cerebral Palsy now for almost 40 years.
CP affects my speech, fine motor skills like writing, and walking is also difficult. In late May, I had to go to the eye doctor because, in my twenties, I also developed a form of autoimmune arthritis that attacked my eyes to the extent that I now have glaucoma and need to be monitored for further eye damage.
As I walked into the door at the eye doctor’s office, the nurse helped me place a mask correctly on my face. When I approached the receptionist, I had to repeat myself twice like I usually do, but I had to shout each word very carefully. Then I had to walk to the area in the building for my eye test. By the time I reached a chair, I was breathing very heavy, and my glasses were fogged up by my hard breathing. As I tried to calm myself by talking with Lord, tears were already in my eyes. I tried to defog my glasses in order to fill out the office forms. However, my glasses continued to fog as I struggled to write my information. I wanted to scream, “This is not fair!” Just then, an office worker called my name, and as I looked up, giant tears rolled down my face. “I need help, please,” I shouted again to be understood while wearing a mask. She took the clipboard and pen and aided me in walking to another room where I proceeded to cry.
At first, my tears seem childish because everyone else is having to wear a mask; but then I realize this little mask had quickly destroyed my ability to manage my “normal” struggles. The mask was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and now all of it just seemed too much.
As I think about children with disabilities and their upcoming tasks to wear masks to school, my heart breaks for them.
For most kids, a mask is hot, uncomfortable, and most definitely not cool. But for children with disabilities, a mask can be yet another thing to manage or fail to manage, exposing their fragile balance in living in a fragile world.
So, I am asking you to think ahead for these children. How could you make their day a little easier or build in moments to give them a small break? Perhaps an extra treat is needed. Also, be prepared for the moments where it all becomes just too much for them. Then, when you try to comfort or console them, remind them how brave they are living in this new world.
I have one more request for you: the next time you feel frustrated wearing you own mask, please think and pray for the children with disabilities who have numerous hardships every day and will not be able to throw “their many masks” in the trash once the world changes yet again.
If you are looking for more ways to embrace and help children with disabilities, then we suggest getting a copy of our book: Let All the Children Come: A Handbook for Holistic Ministry to Children with Disabilities