The accepted wisdom about people with intellectual disabilities is that they are slow. Slow to walk, to talk, to read, to tie their shoes. It’s also widely whispered that being slow is to be lazy, stupid and unproductive. In her essay, “In Praise of Aaron Slow,” author Sue Robins cites noted journalist, Carl Honoré, voice of the Slow Movement. Honoré argues slow doesn’t mean doing things at a snail’s pace. Slow means doing everything at the right speed.
The pandemic helped Maddie find the right speed. She couldn’t rush to work, to classes or to workouts at the JCC. She had to find other activities to fill the empty hours between Zoom sessions. The results were rewarding and surprising.
Maddie has always liked to cook and bake. She even has her own Kitchen Aid. But until the pandemic, it sat untouched on top of her fridge. Then, as we entered yet another lock-down, she decided, (thanks to a prod from her “house elf” Morgan) to do some baking–without my help. Every week, she makes a new type of cookie to share with her housemates, her shut-in Grannie, her Papa, and her housemate’s Grannie. Now she’s trying muffins, bundt cake and more.
After 25 years of swimming lessons, this pandemic summer was the right time for Maddie to take a real plunge. She released her trusty life ring and learned to swim laps from the raft to the shore of our lake. We all cheered. Even more surprising, she formed a running club with her father. Now she runs nearly every weekend, even in the snow and cold. On New Year’s Eve, she set a personal best in a 5.5 k run with her sister, father and friends.
Honoré argues that overcoming our compulsion to hurry will paradoxically help us build richer, fuller lives. During this slow time, Maddie has surprised us all with her many new skills and talents.
I just came across this resource for adults who love to read! Orca books has a “Rapid Reads” program. They publish short books for adult readers, including ESL students, reluctant readers and adults who struggle with literacy. The authors are all well-known, often best-selling authors including, Gail Anderson Dargatz, Zoe Whittall and Richard Wagamese. Many of the books are also available as audiobooks. Maddie likes to read text and listen to audio. A bit expensive, perhaps, but many of these books and audiobooks are also available from public libraries.
Life was far too eventful at Maddie’s house in 2020. Things were going exceptionally well between all the housemates, BUT a sewage problem meant that everyone had to leave the smelly house while repairs were made. Repairs were complicated by the fact that the City was responsible, although not terribly responsive. Maddie moved home from December to early February when the issue was finally solved.
Then, the pandemic spread to Toronto. All the housemates had been travelling, so Maddie moved home in mid-March while they quarantined. She misses her housemates and her routine very much.
But thanks to technology, life is pretty bearable and quite busy! Her weekly piano lessons continue as always, but online, of course. The Miles Nadal JCC‘s superb inclusion and accessibility program responded immediately to the pandemic. Liviya Mendelsohn and her team set up a daily online social group for their Everyday Friends program , led by the hard-working Effie Biliris. The Toronto Public Librarytutoring program moved online and Maddie works on numeracy skills with her volunteer tutor, the very kind, Eileen. The Dramaway Dance and Multi-arts Programs seamlessly shifted to Zoom and Maddie shimmies and creates art twice a week in our basement. Duolingo is helping her learn Spanish, useful now that her sister lives in Spain! In short, she’s busy online! She’s also baking, doing laundry, and helping with the weekly deep clean of the house. Now the big question is: will she be able to go to Club Kodiak? The Camp Staff have organized a zoom event, with another one scheduled. They are working with health authorities in Parry Sound and Huntsville to try to make a plan. Fingers crossed!
Since graduating from Heydon Park in 2008, Maddie has found lots of opportunities to continue her education. Since 2017, she has been working one-on-one with a volunteer tutor in the Toronto Public Library’s Adult Literacy Program. Several branches across the city offer free, one-on-one tutoring in basic reading, writing and math for English-speaking adults 16 years or older. Once a week she meets with Eileen, who helps her improve numeracy skills, using grocery store flyers and word problems related to Maddie’s interests. They also work on writing. Maddie has now developed a hobby of writing essays on her smartphone, so many that we printed her first collection in 2018–also thanks to the Toronto Public Library’s Asquith Press.
There have been many changes in Maddie’s house. The biggest one was that Karen moved out! It was always her dream to live independently, without the support of a live-in mentor. After three + years of supported independent living, she is now settled into her own apartment.
Fortunately for us, Ben, a friend of Maddie’s, heard the news and reached out to say he’d like to move in. We had several meetings and visits and welcomed him at the beginning of February.
One unintended consequence of the changes in housemates was the loss of some key household items and furniture. The coffee maker and dining room table belonged to Karen–both highly valued items! Krystal and Morgan were quick to purchase a replacement for their morning caffeine fixes and Maddie’s grandfather kindly offered to buy her a dining room table. Following a hot tip from my Aunt Pat, we headed to the Singing Lady Consignment Emporium and found a lovely, solid maple table that seats eight! We installed it just in time for an all-family pot luck with the four housemates, their parents and our Monday mentor, Laura. I would have taken a group photo but we were having too much fun!
When Ben moved in, he chose what had been the TV room as his bedroom, leaving the large main floor bedroom free for communal activities. It is now a bustling hub for hanging out, watching TV, practicing yoga, displaying art projects and hosting guests. With space for a keyboard and a “stage” the residents recently hosted a variety show/party under the direction of MC Morgan. It is a lively house!