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Homecoming for Jess

13 August 2020

The Nesbitt family have just bade farewell to an unexpected lockdown guest. Their beloved daughter, Jess, 23 who has learning disabilities, has moved from the family home back to her Kisharon supported living flat.

Jess had come home to celebrate her birthday, but that fateful weekend in March turned into a five-month stay when the government announced the lockdown.

Throughout those long weeks, Jess’s desire to go home never faltered, and indeed the return to her flat and her reunion with her support workers was full of delight.

Yet while mum Amanda is pleased to see Jess smiling, she admits to anxieties about what life now holds for her. Covid-19 has taken away so much of what her daughter, who has a mild learning disability and is on the autistic spectrum, was expecting in the months ahead.

Amanda explained: “From the very beginning Jess wanted her old life back…to return to her flat, to meet her friends and have them over. We tried to tell her it wasn’t going to be like that but it was difficult to explain, and there are no answers if you ask when everything will be back as it was.

“In letting her return, we are facilitating what she wants. We don’t want to impose our thoughts on her. Jess does feel it’s going to be as it was before. We’re just playing it by ear.”

Amanda worries too about how Jess will occupy herself. She graduated this year from Langdon College, and would be expecting work experience, or a job placement by September but neither are on the horizon.

And until Jess was enrolled at KEF’s Summer Camp, what Jess would do throughout the long summer also weighed heavily on Amanda’s mind.

While having Jess at home in Edgware was a pleasure, life had its ups and downs. With dad Laurence, a surveyor, Amanda who works with her husband, son Elliott, 22 also a surveyor and youngest daughter Shifra, at 15 busy with online school lessons working from home, peace and quiet was essential, but not always a given.

There were online Zoom sessions run by Kisharon and others, and Langdon College when it reopened, to engage Jess, but her involvement always depended on her frame of mind at the time.

“Whatever she did had to be her own choice. I didn’t want Jess to feel I was forcing her to do anything.”

Often she’d miss the start of a Zoom programme, because she couldn’t enter the meeting code, and regularly needed someone to help.

Amanda said: “During the year when Jess was in supported living I got my life back. I have found these past months difficult and the siblings did get on each other’s nerves from time to time.”

Despite that, Amanda is watching and waiting to see whether Jess’s life now lives up to expectations. Amanda says: “Whatever happens, we’ll always be here for her.”

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“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.