The past year has been extremely challenging on many fronts. For those with developmental disabilities, however, difficulties have been exacerbated. According to Kevin Potts, executive director of Ken Anderson Alliance (KAA), quarantining, while a necessary tool during the pandemic, has left adults with disabilities feeling considerably more isolated.

“We’re having much higher occurrences of depression and major mental health issues because their social connections have been eliminated,” says Potts. The semantics associated with the pandemic have not helped.

“One thing we try to educate our participants on is that ‘social distancing’ really means ‘physical distancing,’” says Potts. “We still need to be socially connected even if we are physically apart.”

This, too, shall pass, and life will return to normal, hopefully later in 2021. Still, while uncertainty abounds, KAA participants have been grateful that KAA’s services have remained steadfast. Recently, families shared how thankful they are to have KAA’s Engage Program remain an integral part of their lives.

David Beaudry, father of participant Nicole, notes that opportunities for socialization for people with special needs are often limited, but KAA makes significant efforts to provide those social opportunities.

“Socialization — the opportunity to interact with others — is important for everyone. One might even say that it’s essential to a person’s well-being [in terms of] comfort, health and happiness,” says Beaudry. He has been impressed by the way the staff at KAA transitioned to use technology so that participants could still have regular, safe interactions with one another when in-person meetings were too risky. “Our daughter really looks forward to the Zoom calls. As parents, we truly enjoy listening to the laughter and chatter coming from the next room as our daughter actively participates with the group that KAA has brought together.”

Ann Myres, sister to participant Joe, mentioned that her brother doesn’t enjoy connecting online because he doesn’t like sitting by a computer or using the phone. However, he still eagerly awaits receiving the monthly KAA calendar.

“Joe thrives on structure, and the past eight months have caused a lot of chaos to his schedule,” says Myres. “Joe was so happy to be able to safely go out to dinner with the group, as well as go out the following month to miniature golf. KAA offering him safe events has given him something to look forward to during this strange time.”

Suzy Hudson, mother of participant Jake, shared her gratitude for the staff’s dedication to making sure participants felt supported and connected during the COVID-19 shutdown by setting up Zoom meetings that included bingo, crafts, concerts and group chats.

“I was truly impressed by how well the staff was able to respond to this crazy time and still provide excellent opportunities for our adult children,” says Suzy. “I can’t stress enough how important these social interactions and friendships are to this population of adults. As parents of adults with disabilities, your greatest worry is how your children will survive when you are no longer here to care for them. The Ken Anderson Alliance not only provides opportunities for engaging with friends, but also opportunities for living and working in the community. We feel blessed to have this great organization be a part of our lives.”

Joyce Sprague says that the Engage Program has helped grow her son, Evan’s, independence. Unfortunately, the pandemic has marked the end to both his job and day program, and that’s precisely why KAA’s daily Zoom calls have become his lifeline.

“Most days Evan feels pretty isolated, but the Zoom calls give him someone else to talk to and something different to talk about,” says Sprague. “I appreciate everything KAA is doing to help keep people engaged.”

As we usher in a fresh new year full of hope for health and healing, KAA is thankful for any form of monetary support so that they may continue their programming 12 months of the year.

“We don’t receive any government funding. Our services are all run by donations,” says Potts. “We’d love your support in 2021.”

Ken Anderson Alliance is located at 11260 Chester Road, Suite  280, Cincinnati, OH 45246. For more information, call 513.813.8321 or email info@kenandersonalliance.org. To donate, click on the “giving” tab at www.kenandersonalliance.org.