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Education organizations using creative arts to combat isolation in Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - If you‘ve ever felt isolated you’re not alone. 

Adults with disabilities experience loneliness even more than those without disabilities.

Alyona Jerdeva of Santa Barbara knows it. 

“I get very lonely at my house … because my dad and my mom work every single day … and I feel lonely because my parents aren’t with me as often as they used to," said Jerdeva.

Health experts with the Center for Disease Control say “Adults with disabilities report experiencing frequent mental distress almost 5 times as often as adults without disabilities.”

Polly Pelly is speaking with students of the win program at McKinley Elementary School in Santa Barbara.

The program focuses on functional skills for students with moderate to severe disabilities. 

"Loneliness is prevalent in our community … friendlessness is a problem … learning how to make a friend … a lot of times our students don’t really know how to make a friend … so they experience loneliness. 
While everyone responds differently to stressful situations, these students are pursuing creative projects as a way to connect with each other," said Pelly.

This season, they made a movie.

"I directed the movie … we wrote it together … I helped the students act it out and then I edited it .. The students enjoyed doing the movie … it taught them how to get along with each other," said para educator Fred Winter of the Win Program.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, isolation, disrupted routines, and limited health services have greatly impacted the lives and well-being of people with disabilities.

Liaison Elise Fields of YouthWell in Santa Barbara is seeing a high demand for resources among those experiencing isolation. 

"That’s a big problem because a lot of these organizations have wait lists … and so the youth are not able to get the support they need," said Fields.

One of the newest venues for those seeking a safe place to have fun is the Inclusive Arts Clubhouse in Santa Barbara. 

Fields believes the clubhouse is making a breakthrough for those seeking social support. 

"This provides the kind of connection they need the most in order to move beyond the isolation and the loneliness," said Fields.

Directors at YouthWell say one of the key tools to maintaining our well being includes self-care.

{Debbie Fisher, Grace Fisher’s mother}

"It’s okay to feel lonely it’s okay to feel sad. But it’s also okay to talk about it. And artistic expression is such a great way to get out some of those emotions," said Grace Fisher's mother Debbie Fisher of the Inclusive Arts Clubhouse.

Artist Susan Wilcox sees dozens of people with and without disabilities come to the clubhouse nearly every day. 

"They’re Jaw dropped … and they’re like … what is this place … and I just talk about music art and dance … we have programs just open and available for people," said Wilcox.

The clubhouse uses arts and crafts, music and other creative activities as a means to bringing people together. 

Article Topic Follows: Health

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Patricia Martellotti

Patricia Martellotti is a reporter for News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Patricia, click here.


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