Young Mom Had To Quit Her Job In Order To Care For Son With Autism
The coronavirus pandemic has changed what a typical day at school or daycare looks like for children all across the country. For those with autism, switching to remote learning or being cared for at home rather than at a center has disrupted routines and limited or completely stopped regular therapies. On top of that, some of their parents and caregivers are grappling with a new role as teacher or therapist and trying to make ends meet at a time when unemployment is hitting record highs.
David Silva Jr. is a 4-year-old boy with autism. He is a sweet and active little boy who loves the sound of trains. He can say a few words and is working on his communication skills and being able to sit still.
Arasay Peñate is his mom. Before COVID-19 hit America, David Jr. attended child care at Easterseals South Florida in Miami. Peñate worked as a cashier at Fresco y Más less than 40 hours a week, earning $9.50 an hour. Her husband, David Silva, worked at two different upscale restaurants.
When the pandemic hit and his daycare closed, it made more sense financially for Peñate to quit her job to care for him instead of her husband, since she made less than him and his jobs seemed stable at the time.
But now, a couple months into the pandemic, both parents are out of work. Their only income has been the stimulus check, which they used on rent and other necessary expenses. Their unemployment applications and food stamp application have not been processed yet by the state of Florida, as countless other people are in the same situation and the systems are overburdened.
As the country begins to reopen, the possibility of another surge of coronavirus cases looms large. Some childcare providers are opening their doors again and some therapists have continued to work with special needs children, but reopening too quickly could have devastating results. It’s a fine line to walk.
Peñate is hardly the only parent who was forced to stay home because of lack of childcare, but, thankfully, David Jr. has still been able to work with his therapist five days a week. His school worked diligently with its families from the onset of the virus to make arrangements for home visits. But not all families, daycares, and schools have had that option.
More needs to be done to help these families get through this crisis.
“I don’t see anyone talking about mothers. I don’t see anyone talking about children, and on top of those children, the kids who have special conditions,” Peñate said. “That little push is necessary, and that push comes from government, from high-level officials. It shouldn’t depend on us who are at the bottom of the ladder, but rather on those at the top.”
Even if Peñate is able to start sending David Jr. to daycare again soon, the virus is still around, and she worries about his safety. She’s concerned she won’t know if he’s sick until it’s too late because he can only verbalize a few words and has trouble communicating.
It’s a strange new world everyone is living in right now, but Peñate is able to look at the bright side.
“On the one hand, my whole world was shattered,” Peñate said. “On the other hand, it’s taught me to be stronger, to view things from another perspective, to see and put myself in his shoes, and see things the way he sees them.”
Hear more from Peñate in this video.