By Jan Horne
The pandemic has upended many of our lives. But none more so than people with disabilities and their caretakers.
The city’s Adaptive Services staff worked fast and furious to devise alternatives when the lockdown forced in-person programming to halt. Staff needed to ensure their participants were not left behind, including people like Corey Paskvan, a 34-year-old on the autism spectrum.
The Paskvan family moved from Chicago to Scottsdale in 2019. His parents, Jeanne and John, were seeking retirement cities, but more importantly, ones that could accommodate Corey’s needs.
Since moving here, they’ve never looked back! Corey thrived in the community while participating in Scottsdale’s special needs programs. He worked at Chick-fil-A, competed in the city’s Bobcat’s Special Olympics program, and engaged with others while attending various events.
Then COVID-19 hit.
Corey’s world changed overnight. Jeanne says the lockdown was isolating and mentally and physically devastating. It even took a toll on Jeanne and her husband trying to keep Corey busy on their own 24/7.
But they didn’t wait long for a solution.
Operations Supervisor Deanna Zuppan and her Adaptive Services staff quickly got busy figuring out ways they could provide meaningful services and programs to this vulnerable group.
Within weeks of the lockdown, this team offered various in-person alternatives, including:
• Providing Rec-2-Go Bags filled with stay-at-home activities with step-by-step instructions to create or bake.
• Creating virtual interactive classes and activities. More than 75 classes a month are available, including STEM, cooking, fitness and dance, arts and crafts, sign language, talent shows, Jeopardy, Bingo and book clubs – to name a few.
• Developing Front Porch Visits where staff chats, physically distanced, with participants and drops off swag bags filled with goodies and crafts.
• Instituting a loaner tablet program for those who don’t have access to a computer.
• Presenting a weekly virtual support group called “The Share Circle,” where attendees talk about the stressors, fears and unknowns of the pandemic. City social workers offer coping skills.
• Re-envisioning Special Olympics by adapting some of the sports programs, like swimming and aerobics to outdoor, non-contact opportunities.
• Hosting parking lot movie nights.
Jeanne and John say the program has always been a saving grace for them and Corey, but even more so with the pandemic programs that were put into place. Corey’s thrived and even learned some new skills along the way.
According to his mom, he’s picked up some culinary skills from the virtual cooking classes. Until that point, Corey had never used a sharp knife or the stove. Jeanne says he’s now prepping and cooking recipes on his own. “He has so much pride being able to fix mom and dad dinner, and on top of it, the meals are delicious,” she says.
While the Paskvan family is anxious to get back to “regular” in-person activities, they have been more than grateful for the adaptations the city has made to accommodate this special group. To learn more, visit ScottsdaleAZ.gov/human-services/adaptive-services or call 480-312-2234.