The Williamson family – dad Chad, mom Christine, Jennah (at back) and Mikayla – at Glow in Abbotsford in December. (Contributed photo)

The Williamson family – dad Chad, mom Christine, Jennah (at back) and Mikayla – at Glow in Abbotsford in December. (Contributed photo)

Quarantined Surrey mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Cloverdale’s Christine Williamson shares her family’s challenges, strengths

Being quarantined at home for two weeks is a daunting thought for most, but the restrictions take on a whole other meaning for those with special needs and their loved ones.

One Cloverdale mom whose family is finding ways to cope after returning from a trip to Florida, acknowledged the exercise is important in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, in the event one of them picked up the virus while they were away.

“We’re all symptom-free – so far,” Christine Williamson said Monday, of herself, husband Chad, daughters Jennah and Mikayla and her in-laws. “We just want to make sure we’re not a part of the problem, and we want to stay safe.”

READ MORE: White Rock couple on coronavirus-quarantined ship urge Canada/UK governments to step up

Still, the impact COVID-19 has had on the routines and therapies that Mikayla needs to help manage daily life as a person with autism and other diagnoses has been severe.

In short, “it’s crisis mode,” said Williamson, noting the sentiment is one shared by many families who have special needs children.

And, the quarantine – which, for the Williamsons, ends Monday (April 6) – has only exacerbated it.

Usually, workers and therapists are in and out of the Williamson family home every weekday, helping 18-year-old Mikayla with everything from managing her behaviours to schoolwork. But now, “she has none of that,” her mom said.

“For kids on the autism spectrum, routine is everything,” Williamson said, describing her daughter as “quirky and funny,” with a love of reptiles and swimming, and a knack for the artistic.

“Everything that they do is regimented. It’s how they have order in their life. And so she has none of that. On top of that, we’re now quarantined. We can’t go to the park, we can’t do anything.”

To make matters worse, “because we don’t have answers, we can’t calm her fear and anxiety of it.”

“Her meltdowns are worse and more frequent. Her level of being able to cope is not there.”

No stranger to struggles, however – the family has weathered everything from layoffs to Williamson’s own battles with mental illness over the past two decades – Williamson said an important way that she and her family have learned to cope is to focus on what they can control, rather than what they can’t. Things like the “thermostat” in their home – and not the one that controls the actual temperature.

They’ve set up ‘no-judgment zones’ where as a family they can say whatever they need to without fear of judgment or reprisal, and then together, work on coming up with two positives out of whatever was said.

Recognizing the impact of limited space in the home on each occupant has also been important, Williamson said; honouring expressed needs for time to themselves, “even if we might be put out for a bit.”

“Just a lot of things like that – being willing to be vulnerable and to speak what it is that we’re feeling in any given moment… feel what we need to feel and then move on from that.”

They’re skills that can be applied to anybody, she noted, giving credit to Emotions BC Health and Wellness Society, an organization that formed in 2018 “to provide and deliver programs and services to families and caregivers of loved ones dealing with emotion dysregulation caused by diagnosed or undiagnosed mental health challenges.”

“EmotionsBC was created to eliminate barriers and to enhance health and wellness for loved ones struggling with mental health challenges as well as families — and therefore, potentially and quite literally, saving lives,” an introduction on the society’s website states.

Williamson said the society helped their family “in some of our darkest moments,” and a desire to return the favour by being a beacon of hope for others drove her and her husband to become involved not just as program participants but also as facilitators of some of the programs. Williamson also now holds the role of administrative assistant.

In these days of social distancing, self-isolation and quarantine, supports are having to be given and accessed in different ways, many of them online. For Mikayla, that means connecting with her therapy team through such avenues as Zoom, with her mom at her side to guide her – though the sessions are a far cry from the support she gained through her one-on-one therapies.

Williamson said it doesn’t take a grand gesture to assist families that are struggling – it can be as simple as offering to add a couple extra items to their own grocery list. Neighbours can also share a tea “date” from the safety of their respective porches, just to check in.

READ MORE: Self-Advocates of Semiahmoo issue video appeals amid pandemic concerns

“Practical things like that go a long way to break the isolation,” she said.

“We’re used to isolation, but this is different,” she said. “And because there’s so much more fear and concern, and there’s no end in sight, there’s no game plan. Everyone’s affected on such a deeper, bigger level, that the sense of community, to me, means that you’re really checking in on people and giving them a space… to share how they’re really feeling and what they’re really thinking.”

Williamson said she also feels “slightly strongly” about those who aren’t taking social-distancing and other recommended or ordered preventative measures seriously.

Acknowledging that she was among those who initially doubted the seriousness of the pandemic, Williamson said her mind changed when she realized how quickly it was spreading and how vulnerable Mikayla was.

“Because of all the struggles my daughter has, I am concerned for her safety,” she said. “She puts her hands in her mouth all the time.

“I feel that if people could understand that because we don’t know what we’re dealing with, there isn’t a defense for it. If we could just take a step back… just re-prioritize a little bit, we have a chance to save thousands of lives.”

Williamson said shifting her own mindset around the quarantine from one of “feeling like the walls are closing in on me,” to one that looks at abiding by the measures as a gift was an important step for her on Sunday; the halfway point.

As difficult as the journey is and will continue to be for an undetermined time, however, she said she is confident there are brighter days ahead.

“When I look at the virus, in and of itself, I feel that we have a lot of skills and resiliency,” she said. “It’s not that there aren’t tears and concerns and unknowns. We have already weathered so many storms… you always find a way to rebuild from the ashes of what you’ve gone through.”

Online resources Williamson suggested include the Emotions BC website, at emotionsbc.ca (for families, caregivers and loved ones), and actcommunity.ca and reachdevelopment.org (for programs, training and supports for individuals as well as families).



tholmes@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusSurreyWhite Rock

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Baking is among Mikayla Williamson’s favourite things to do, and it’s one of the activities keeping her busy during her family’s quarantine at their Cloverdale home. (Contributed photo)

Baking is among Mikayla Williamson’s favourite things to do, and it’s one of the activities keeping her busy during her family’s quarantine at their Cloverdale home. (Contributed photo)

Baking is among Mikayla Williamson’s favourite things to do, and it’s one of the activities keeping her busy during her family’s quarantine at their Cloverdale home. (Contributed photo)

Baking is among Mikayla Williamson’s favourite things to do, and it’s one of the activities keeping her busy during her family’s quarantine at their Cloverdale home. (Contributed photo)

Just Posted

Surrey RCMP photo
Police seize loaded gun after car speeds off in Newton

A man and woman were arrested Thursday in an underground parking lot in the 8200-block of Scott Road

Michael Bublé in video posted to Arts Club Theatre Company’s Youtube channel.
VIDEO: Arts Club alum Michael Bublé backs theatre company’s re-opening campaign

Pandemic has caused 15 months of suspended operations for Arts Club, founded in 1964

Linda Annis, Aug. 12, 2020. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Council sinks Annis’s call for independent auditor general for Surrey

‘Surrey taxpayers deserve the best possible oversight of the tax dollars they send to city hall,’ Surrey councillor argued

Maintaining a routine can help to normalize your day-to-day during social distancing amidst COVID-19. (Corey Bullock file)
Group offering support to Surrey, White Rock residents who are dealing with anxiety

Recovery International hosts virtual meetings every Thursday

Car found burned in back alley Sunday near 9700-block of Princess Drive in Surrey. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
IHIT looking for dash-cam footage of burned Surrey car believed related to YVR shooting

The burned vehicle was found near the 9700-block of Princess Drive

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald pauses while speaking during a news conference in Burnaby, B.C., on Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘We will do everything we can,’ B.C. police say to reassure public amid gang violence

Active officers in the Lower Mainland, including those from the Integrated Homicide Investigations Team, are being recruited to an ‘inactive potential future police service’

Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about phase two in B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization plan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
All of B.C. will eventually ease out of COVID-19 restrictions at same time: Henry

People who have received two doses of a vaccine can’t yet return to post-pandemic activities with each other, she says

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

A map of Huu-ay-aht-owned forestry cutblock. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
B.C. First Nations restrict access to territory in wake of forestry standoffs

Huu-ay-aht set up checkpoints after heated and dangerous incidents on southwest Vancouver Island

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks drew a large crowd to the Abbotsford Centre in 2019. Canucks management hopes the crowds return for the planned AHL team this fall, and early returns are positive. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Canucks: ‘Incredible’ early interest for Abbotsford AHL tickets

Team has had a strong response to both e-mail information and priority ticket lists

Most Read