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'It's been a challenge': Pandemic takes a toll on people with intellectual disabilities

By Daniela Altimari, The Hartford Courant on

Published in News & Features

"This is an overlooked group," said Stephen Morris, executive director of Favarh, the Farmington Valley branch of The Arc. "As we're approaching a time when there's an available vaccine, people with (disabilities) need to be a priority, just like people who live in nursing homes."

In the early days of the pandemic, Favarh shut down most of its day programs and employment sites. "As things evolved, we started to reopen our day programs and our employment programs," Morris said. "But some people haven't come back, because they have medical complications themselves or cannot wear a mask. People have been home for a long time and that impacts their health in different ways."

Nick Sinacori spent those first few months home with his family; "we did a lot of walking," recalled his mother, Suzanne Sinacori.

Sinacori is now back behind the cash register and busing tables at BeanZ & Co., a coffee shop in Avon that employs people with disabilities.

"BeanZ is like family," Sinacori said. "When the pandemic hit, I was out from March till June. I really missed seeing my coworkers."

One of those coworkers, Lauren Traceski, 28, said the pandemic has caused a lot of emotional upheaval. "I feel like I'm on a roller coaster," she said.

Traceski recently got engaged and she had planned to move in with her fiance earlier this year. Like Sinacori, her plans have been delayed by the COVID crisis. "I just want to start our lives together," she said.

 

Both Sinacori and Traceski are moving into a new apartment complex in Canton developed by Favarh that will house tenants who have disabilities and those who do not. The complex, initially expected to open in March, is now scheduled to be ready by the end of the year.

Sinacori is also eager to start a new chapter, but he said, "I'm trying to learn to be patient."

His mother said she's seen her son mature over the past few months. "A couple of years back, I don't know if he'd be able to do this," Suzanne Sinacori said. "He's more empathetic. This has taught him a different set of skills."

Morris said he's been impressed by the way those with intellectual and developmental disabilities have adapted to the new realities of life during the pandemic.

"We have these preconceived notions that just because someone has an intellectual disability that affects part of their life, they will have a harsher reaction to things like the mask requirement 1/4 u201a" Morris said. "While they're at greater risk for increased health complications, as far as coping with the social consequences, I think they're doing a phenomenal job."

(c)2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC