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Coronavirus

After COVID-19, Aaron Waddingham Is Going to His Prom Dance

But like all of us, he’s got to weather the storm first. A day in the life.

By Aaron Waddingham and Sue Robins 23 Nov 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Sue Robins is the mom of three and the author of the book Bird’s Eye View. Aaron Waddingham is a Grade 12 student and an actor. His first commercial for Nintendo was released in November 2019. Find him on Instagram.

When the pandemic hit in March, my son Aaron Waddingham, like so many kids, quickly learned that spending lots of time at home staring at a screen is not that much fun after all.

“Too much Zoom is scream time,” he says. “I have some school, but sometimes video games. I miss having people talk to me at school.”

Aaron is 17-years-old and has Down syndrome. Before the pandemic, he spent considerable time by himself. But COVID-19 has made life even more isolated for disabled people like him.

An aspiring actor and Grade 12 student in Burnaby, Aaron is medically compromised and didn’t return to school in September. His days are a mix of neighbourhood walks, Zoom calls, private classes at the local Down syndrome organization and time spent alone.

Asked to sum up his thoughts about the pandemic, he says, “Let’s teleport to a new world where there’s no COVID.”

In recent months, Vancouver photographer Ryan Walter Wagner captured the essence of Aaron’s days in our condo on Burnaby Mountain.

Before meeting Aaron, Wagner had never spent time with someone with Down syndrome. “After a few times of getting together, Aaron and I were friends. He stopped looking at the camera and started looking at me,” he says.

Aaron’s story reflects our collective experience with the pandemic: a combination of fear, boredom, frustration and loneliness, tempered by glimmers of hope and joy. He shares his reflections in the captions below.

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'I’m not going to school because of COVID. It isn’t safe for me because of my health. When I was a six-year-old and a 12-year-old, I got pneumonia easily. COVID is dangerous because I could get sick with lung problems.'
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'I can lift 25 pounds, baby! I want to be Dwayne Johnson. I want to meet him. We can talk about wrestling and acting. I want to be an actor man. My dad is working from home now so we do more sports together. I want to start wrestling too. After COVID.'
582px version of AaronWaddinghamRubbingEyes.jpg
'Too much Zoom is scream time. I have some school, but sometimes video games. I miss having people talk to me at school. I’m missing all my classes. Why so slow? All I have is cooking and media arts. I need more classes. I want to do things in class.'
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'Walking with my mom is not that interesting. But walks are part of nature with my mom. My mom is so proud of me sometimes she gets me a treat from the coffee place. Long walks hurt my kneecap.'
AaronWaddinghamReadingScript.jpg
'Acting is about socializing and memorizing scripts. You need a good attitude and behaviour. The scripts are hard because the big words are hard to say. I can say: disappointed, disqualified, economy, but extreme long words are hard to say. I have to speak clearly.'
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'Lane Edwards is an actor and he is my friend and acting coach. Here we are taping a video with my Scottish accent for my lines. I am happy when I work with Lane. I used to see him in person but because of COVID we are mostly on Skype. I need more auditions. I need more auditions for people with Down syndrome like me.'
851px version of AaronWaddinghamDeadpoolCostume.jpg
'I felt bad about Halloween this year. BAD. COVID. COVID is wasting people’s lives. I like Deadpool, because Ryan Reynolds is from Vancouver. I am an action person. I want to be the Down syndrome Deadpool.'
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'My brother lives in Ohio. That’s why I care about the American election. He and his wife are part of my family. Trump can go back to hell. I don’t think Trump’s mom loved him, her own son, and that’s what triggered him. My sister Ella is a nurse who takes care of sick kids. I worry that Ella will get sickness problems like COVID.'
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'DSRF [Down Syndrome Resource Foundation] understands me there, better than school. They are serious and funny. I like reading and improv and speech therapy. And talking about politics. I have 10,000 friends there. I am a popular person there.'
851px version of AaronWaddinghamMask.jpg
'There’s nothing good about COVID. It’s no good. I wish they would build a vaccine quicker. The first thing I’m going to do after COVID is to go to my graduation and prom dance. I’m going to be lit!'

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