Community Stories

A special place for David

May 20, 2020

To say 11-year-old David Bowie (just as talented, but no relation to the late musician) enjoys stopping by the library, is a bit of an understatement.

“He loves, like loves the library,” says Mom, Candice. “David could read to us before he could speak to us. He would read anything on paper.”

The Eastview Middle School student has autism, a developmental disorder that often causes challenges with communication and social interaction. He finds it comforting to thumb through the books and browse the library’s collection of DVDs.

“The library is such a safe space for him. The staff there are so good with him; they all know him by name. We used to go three or four times a week,” says Candice.

When COVID-19 hit and public facilities shut their doors to prevent the spread of the virus, David found himself unable to go to his favourite place.

“When COVID happened, he lost everything that he’d gained in two years. His whole world got really small,” says Candice. “He can’t just do a Google Meet with everybody. He has limited language and that social communication part that I think is hard for everybody right now, is really hard for him. He’s lost touch with his friends and his routine is gone.”

David recorded a heartbreaking video, pleading with his mom to go to the library, and asking why it and his school and favourite store, are closed.

“He likes DVDs and he’s learned that if he goes to Value Village instead of other retail stores that he can get like 10 DVDs instead of one,” laughs his mom.

Candice shared the video with a few people in her circle, including long-time friend Jessica Schurman and her husband Bob (who works for The City of Red Deer in the Parks department). Jessica and Bob are also parents to a child with autism.

“We know exactly where they’re coming from,” says Jessica. “COVID is also really hard for our daughter because her jam is swimming; she’s a four-times-a-week swimmer and it’s very regulating for her. And swimming is one of the last things that’s going to re-open.”

When the Schurman’s learned how much David was missing his library time, they decided to build him one of his very own. Jessica and Bob put out a call to friends and family for used DVDs, then went to work building David a private library in their garage. They finished it off with a hand-drawn sign, and then sent David a colourful invitation complete with pictures, so he knew what to expect when he got there.

“I cried,” admits Candice. “Just for them to understand and meet him where he is, was just really great. It meant a lot to us.”

“He texts me now and he’ll say ‘This is David, can I come over to the Schurman Library and look at your movies?’ And I’ll say ‘Sure, you bet’ and he’ll come over and we’ll open the garage door and he’ll take a peek and have a little visit,” says Jessica.

David’s mom says she’s seen a real change in him, now that he has something to look forward to and somewhere to go that’s all his own. She says it’s brought back a sense of normalcy during a stressful and confusing time. “For them to do that and for him to have something to look forward to when everything is so hard, it’s just so awesome.”

“Everybody says ‘we’re all going through this COVID-19 pandemic together’, and I understand that,” says Jessica. “But some of us are in a different boat. It’s just a different set of challenges when you have a child with a social communication disorder or disability.”

David Bowie enjoying the Schurman LibraryDavid Bowie enjoying the Schurman LibraryDavid Bowie enjoying the Schurman Library

Candice Bowie and Jessica Schurman formed a Facebook group for parents of children with autism in Red Deer and central Alberta. The group is designed as a resource to share ideas and provide support for other families who are dealing with similar challenges. For more information, search “Connecting Autism Parents Red Deer” on Facebook.