The first flakes of snow bring anxiety. The subsequent inclement weather closings cause panic. For most of my adulthood, winter weather has wreaked havoc at my home.
My oldest son has profound autism. Changes in weather affect his mood. Changes in schedule throw our entire household into chaos. He has three hobbies: playing the same few notes repeatedly on keyboards and pianos, eating, and finding inventive ways of destroying things.
Throw in the usual worries that accompany severe weather--work, power outages, home issues, other children--and snow days did not become peaceful breaks from the real world but nightmarish frenzies.
My son is now 24, and lives in a group home in Richmond, where he takes schedule changes with a shrug and seems to enjoy the snow.
That makes snow days very different in our home. This past week, I've spent the snow days battling a cold and feeling twinges of guilt over not being more productive. Maybe not the perfect snow day experience, but such an improvement over previous years.
For my family and countless others, this is possible because of an amazing sacrifice made by others. For individuals with disabilities and with mental illness, inclement weather throws off their routines and exacerbates their anxieties. They require even more care than usual.
And this care is provided by people who have all of the same worries we do when snow falls: Taking care of their homes, their families, their transportation.
The employees who support individuals with disability and mental illness don't get snow days. They truly are essential workers who show up no matter what else is going on. They leave their families and their homes to help vulnerable individuals, whether that means getting snowed in at a group home or responding to individuals experiencing mental health crises.
When it comes to snow days, direct support professionals pack bags in case they can't get out of the group home for days. Emergency services therapists catch rides with law enforcement to respond to individuals in crisis. Doctors and therapists turn to the internet to continue necessary services.
RACSB operates many 24-hour programs, and they are staffed by real-life superheroes, who keep our community safe and who make a dramatic difference in the lives of the individuals served and their families. They overcome steep snowdrifts, closed highways, and power outages.