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Friends – our life saver says Kisharon mum

19 June 2020

Friendship is the theme of Learning Disability Week, and mum Jane Pearl explains the importance of good friends as she shields Chanochi, 10, a pupil at Kisharon School. “Friends have been a life saver,” she says.

The Pearl family, Jane, husband Ian and their children twins Sari and Meital, 14, Eli five and Chanochi haven’t left their home in Edgware since March when the Covid-19 lockdown started.

But good friends have bolstered the Pearls’ resilience. “Friends have been a life saver for us all,” Jane said. “They come to the end of the drive. We chat together, laugh together and it relieves any tension.

“Phone calls are lovely, but seeing people in front of you is different. We are lucky this is summer. Seeing people just wouldn’t have been possible in the cold and wet.”

Chanochi has missed his friends from school. Jane said: “He misses the driver of the school bus and the person who escorts him off it, and so we message them. He sees school friends and teachers on Kisharon School’s Zoom sessions but especially missed Shloime, a close friend who is older and in another class. We arranged for him to come to the end of our drive and Chanochi sat in the porch. Chanochi and Shloime spoke for 20 minutes, sharing news. There was such joy!”

Jane, a midwife who now holds her appointments by phone, is pragmatic about life at home. “A lot of watching programmes goes on. If they’re not watching then I have to be with them so it’s a juggling act. I work two days a week so on those days they have to do their own thing. But being in the house, I do know what is going on.”

She maintains that having a child with a disability has helped them get accustomed to lockdown quicker than most. “We are used to living with unpredictability. Other people have things mapped out. It’s been a curveball.”

It took Sainsbury’s a few weeks to recognise that they were a vulnerable family. But since then groceries have arrived regularly on the doorstep and close friends take care of their needs from kosher shops.

The recent easing of the lockdown with the announcement that those shielding can go out, if they’re comfortable doing so, has only served to make life harder. Jane explained: “It’s the uncertainty of knowing now what’s safe for the vulnerable. Infections might go up, there could be a second wave. How do we know whether to go back to school?”

The Pearls faced that agonising decision when Beit Shvidler Primary School reopened and Eli had the chance to take his seat back in the classroom.

“Eli is a reluctant learner so I didn’t want to hold him back but we decided not to send him.”

That tricky issue has not yet surfaced for their twins. Hasmonean High School for Girls is scheduling normal daily lessons on Zoom.

Jane admitted the family is luckier than many. “At least we have a house and a garden so the children can have a good run around every day.” Jane has written a Jewish News blog. You can read it here.

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Pirkei Avos
“The world stands on three things: Torah, the service of G-d, and deeds of kindness.” Kisharon looks at the person not the disability, teaching Torah, Middos and Mitzvot embracing and cherishing everybody’s special talent and bringing out the best in them.