Learning disability couple 'struggling to cope' apart in isolation

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image source, Facebook
image captionPaul and Emma recently got engaged

A couple with learning disabilities who recently got engaged say they are struggling to be apart as they live in isolation with their parents.

Emma Drakeley and Paul Thomas say it has been a challenge as they rely on each other for support.

Their conditions mean they find it difficult to be inactive and communicate with each other remotely.

They say more should be done to help those with learning disabilities understand coronavirus and how to cope.

Ms Drakeley, 23, of Bushbury, Wolverhampton, is currently studying photography at college, while Mr Thomas, 28, of Wombourne, works as a gardener.

He said: "I'm used to being outdoors and always having something to do, but it's hard to motivate myself now.

"I feel like I don't have anything to get up for and not seeing Emma has added to that."

image source, Facebook
image captionPaul and Emma regularly attend weekly activities including a drama class

Paul has dyslexia and dysphasia which means he finds spelling difficult along with concentrating for long periods. He says he is finding the lack of activity caused by isolation very testing.

Ms Drakeley has cerebral palsy and neurofibromatosis type one (NF1) - a genetic condition that affects the nervous system. It means balance and co-ordination can be difficult for her.

To help, the couple usually attend drama, dance and swimming classes, all of which have stopped since the lockdown.

"I help him with his reading and writing and he helps me keep positive and go to classes," Ms Drakeley said.

"But now, I'm tired more because I'm just doing my college work.

"But I understand that we have to stay home to save lives."

image source, Facebook
image captionPaul says he is finding it particularly difficult being away from Emma

The couple, who have been together for about seven years, have managed to use messaging apps to keep in touch but say it may not be easy for others.

Mr Thomas said: "It's hard only being able to text or call, it's not the same and though we can use Facetime, other people can't."

The pair also think information about the virus should be clearer.

"I understand about staying in and keeping clean, but some people might not," Emma said.

The charity Mencap has published an easy-read guide to help people with learning disabilities understand the virus.

Richard Lawrence, of Mencap, recognises being in lockdown "can be especially difficult" for those with learning disabilities.

They are "less likely to live with their partners and so often they can't even see the person that they love the most", he said.

"It can also be hard to understand what is happening because information isn't always accessible" which can make it "even scarier and confusing", he said.

Mencap advises anyone who is struggling to use technology to ask for help.

For Ms Drakeley and Mr Thomas, focusing on the future is helping.

"I just want to get back to normal - whatever that will be after this," Ms Drakeley said.

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