Grace and Anne Marie’s COVID-19 Vaccination Story

We asked Grace, a Surrey Place client, and her mother, Anne Marie, what it was like for Grace to get her COVID-19 vaccine. 

What was it like to get your COVID-19 vaccine? How did you feel before and after the vaccination? 

Grace: “[Before my appointment, I was] scared and nervous.” 

Anne Marie: I was really worried that Grace would not go through with it. Grace has a very deep-seated fear of needles. I had to do a lot of self-talk as I got into the car with Grace on the morning of the vaccine. I could feel my pulse racing, and I could feel my anxiety, stress and worry rising. 

Grace’s behaviour is also very unpredictable, so as much as I try to anticipate what her reaction might be, I can never know for sure. She is quite impulsive, so I was even worried that she might try to bolt WHILE the needle was in her arm. 

Grace: “[After my appointment, I was] happy!” 

Anne Marie: I was SO relieved I had tears of joy in my eyes.  Even now, as I write this, my eyes start to tear up. Such relief and such pride. I also felt extremely grateful for the support and help. My sister came with me, and the doctor was so patient. Surrey Place was there to check us in, check on us along the way, and of course, it was Surrey Place who reached out to me to set up the appointment. I was very, very grateful to so many for helping to make this happen.  In my world, Grace getting a vaccine is indeed a monumental event! It takes a village. 

How did Surrey Place help you learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine or help you feel more comfortable getting it? 

Anne Marie: I do not think that Grace would have been able to get a vaccine without the support and help from Surrey Place! Firstly, Surrey Place worked with the clinic to help them be as prepared as possible to support adults with developmental disabilities. This step is critical, as the needs of this group are very unique. 

Also, Surrey Place reached out to me to inquire about my interest in registering Grace for this vaccine. The conversation I had with Matt [Instructor Therapist in the TRE-ADD Program] was so helpful and supportive because he clearly understood my worries. Matt was also very encouraging when I shared some of what I had been doing to prepare Grace for the vaccine. I am a single mom, and sometimes I feel like I am just flying by the seat of my pants in trying to figure out how to support Grace, so I was very grateful to hear such positive words from Matt. 

Surrey Place also helped because they produced a video of Amanda, a person with a developmental disability, getting her vaccine. 

This video provided Grace with important insight on where we were going and what to expect. The first time she watched it, Grace said, “I like the gym.” Seeing that the clinic was in a space that Grace associates with a positive activity was a bonus! The video of Amanda also helped me know a bit more about the area, so I was better prepared for supporting Grace. For example, even knowing that we had to enter the building and then go upstairs was helpful to know ahead of time. 

Do you have any advice for anyone currently eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Anne Marie: I have been desensitizing Grace for months and far more in the last few weeks as it became clear that she was soon going to be eligible. Every person is unique with their needs, fears, behaviours, etc., but I will share some of the aspects of the desensitizing process used with and for Grace: 

  • Normalize the vaccine as much as possible. Grace does not understand ‘vaccine,’ so we always refer to it as the needle. I tried to normalize it for Grace by showing her photos and videos of people she knows getting the needle. 
  • Use “First… then” framing. Grace understands that ‘COVID’ means she cannot have her best friend sleepover, she cannot go to camp, and she cannot hug her family members.  For months, Grace has known that “Two needles, and then hugs,” or “Two needles and then a sleepover.” At the clinic, Grace knew that after the needle, she would video call one of her favourite cousins. 
  • Bring a family member along. My sister came with me to the vaccination clinic, and this was helpful for several reasons – for moral support for me, for a nice distraction for Grace, and having an extra set of hands. 
  • Make or use a photo book about the vaccination experience. This was one of the most critical tools that supported Grace’s vaccination process, both the desensitization part of it, and when we were at the clinic. I tried to capture each step of the process to help Grace understand the various steps ahead of time. She read it multiple times and became very familiar with all the steps. The book was also pivotal during the process, as it allowed us to celebrate all the incremental stages of getting the vaccine. 
  • Incorporate choice into the process wherever possible. This was also an intentional part of my plan. For example, Grace knew she could choose what arm to have the needle in and where we would go for lunch after the needle. 

We all know that COVID-19 can be a life-or-death virus. Getting the vaccine is about my daughter’s health, her safety, and her life. I am forever grateful for Surrey Place acting and advocating on behalf of individuals who require extra care, time and attention to these critical health care needs. Surrey Place created access to the vaccine for Gracie… thank you, times a million!

By 2 months

Has your baby had their hearing screened? YES NO

By 6 months

Does the child?

Startle in response to loud noises? YES NO
Turn to where a sound is coming from? YES NO
Make different cries for different needs (hungry, tired)? YES NO
Watch your face as you talk? YES NO
Smile/laugh in response to your smiles and laughs? YES NO
Imitate coughs or other sounds such as ah, eh, buh YES NO

By 9 months

Does the child?

Respond to their name? YES NO
Respond to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door? YES NO
Understand being told no? YES NO
Get what they want through using gestures (reaching to be picked up)? YES NO
Play social games with you (Peek-a-Boo)? YES NO
Enjoy being around people? YES NO
Babble and repeat sounds such as babababa or duhduhduh? YES NO

By 12 months

Does the child?

Follow simple one-step directions (sit down)? YES NO
Look across the room to a toy when adult points at it? YES NO
Consistently use three to five words? YES NO
Use gestures to communicate (waves hi/bye, shakes head for no)? YES NO
Get your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes? YES NO
Bring you toys to show you? YES NO
Perform for social attention and praise? YES NO
Combine lots of sounds together as though talking (abada baduh abee)? YES NO
Show an interest in simple picture books? YES NO

By 18 months

Does the child?

Understand the meaning of in and out, off and on? YES NO
Point to more than 2 body parts when asked? YES NO
Use at least 20 words consistently? YES NO
Respond with words or gestures to simple questions (Where's teddy? What's that?)? YES NO
Demonstrate some pretend play with toys (gives teddy bear a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat)? YES NO
Make at least four different consonant sounds (p ,b, m, n, d, g, w, h)? YES NO
Enjoy being read to and sharing simple books with you? YES NO
Point to pictures using one finger? YES NO

By 2 years

Does the child?

Follow two-step directions (Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma.)? YES NO
Use 100 to 150 words? YES NO
Use at least two pronouns (you, me, mine)? YES NO
Consistently combine two to four words in short phrases (Daddy hat. Truck go down.)? YES NO
Enjoy being around other children? YES NO
Begin to offer toys to other children and imitate other children's actions and words? YES NO
Use words that are understood by others 50 to 60 per cent of the time? YES NO
Form words or sounds easily and without effort? YES NO
Hold books the right way up and turn the pages? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 30 months

Does the child?

Understand the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little/a lot, more)? YES NO
Use some adult grammar (two cookies, bird flying, I jumped)? YES NO
Use over 350 words? YES NO
Use action words such as run, spill, fall? YES NO
Participate in some turn-taking activities with peers, using both words and toys? YES NO
Demonstrate concern when another child is hurt or sad? YES NO
Combine several actions in play (puts blocks in the train and drives the train, drops the blocks off.)? YES NO
Put sounds at the beginning of most words? YES NO
Use words with two or more syllables or beats (ba-na-na, com-pu-ter, a-pple)? YES NO
Recognize familiar logos and signs involving print (Stop sign)? YES NO
Remember and understand familiar stories? YES NO

By 3 years

Does the child?

Understand who, what, where and why questions? YES NO
Create long sentences using five to eight words? YES NO
Talk about past events (trip to grandparents house, day at child care)? YES NO
Tell simple stories? YES NO
Show affection for favourite playmates? YES NO
Engage in multi-step pretend play (pretending to cook a meal, repair a car)? YES NO
Talk in a way that most people outside of the family understand what she/he is saying most of the time? YES NO
Have an understanding of the function of print (menus, lists, signs)? YES NO
Show interest in, and awareness of, rhyming words? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 4 years

Does the child?

Follow directions involving three or more steps (First get some paper, then draw a picture and give it to Mommy)? YES NO
Use adult type grammar? YES NO
Tell stories with a beginning, middle and end? YES NO
Talk to try and solve problems with adults and with other children? YES NO
Show increasingly complex imaginary play? YES NO
Talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all the time? YES NO
Generate simple rhymes (cat-bat)? YES NO
Match some letters with their sounds (letter b says buh, letter t says tuh)? YES NO