Transitions Program COVID-19 Distance Learning
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of Transitions Program in-person classes on March 16, teachers and therapists raced to explore novel methods of delivering distance services to our students. Staff members initially identified the most critical issues that needed to be met so that every student would have access to learning.
The first need we addressed was the lack of an available computer or printer in each student’s home. Laptop computers were delivered to the home of every student who did not own such a device. As some of our anxiety-ridden students are uncomfortable with participating in on-camera learning, a hybrid platform of virtual lessons utilizing Zoom or Microsoft Teams, combined with daily telephone conversations between students and staff members, is scheduled. Assignments, in packet form, are mailed weekly to those students who do not have home internet service, while the remaining students are sent their assignments via electronic means. Those students without internet service are instructed to snap a photo of each mandated assignment, conveying the completed work to the assigned subject instructor. Throughout this process, teachers log daily telephone contact with each of their students, offering all class enrollees academic support with positive feedback, when possible. Further scheduled support is offered to the students by a teaching assistant and student peer mentor.
The second need we identified focuses on the ways we would continue to deliver therapeutic services to our students. Together, our licensed clinicians and teachers realized that they had to prioritize the basic needs of the students who were suddenly, without preparation, forced into a home -based learning environment. Telebehavioral health services are offered to students on a daily, weekly, and as-needed basis. Therapists assume a supportive role, while prioritizing students’ mental health. Combined with individual therapy sessions, clinicians offer twice weekly group counseling sessions by age group and area of needs. In situations where students are emotionally unable to adjust well to the stressful conditions of these unprecedented days, our clinicians, following CDC guidelines, pay visits to student homes, offering intense therapeutic support to the students and their families.
Maintaining the Social Element For Students Via an Online Environment
The third need we address centers on the creation of opportunities for our students to maintain social interaction with each other. Facilitated by staff clinicians, students are offered the chance to participate in a weekly scheduled virtual social hour. This allows students the
chance to “visit” with each other while maintaining regular social interaction.
The final critical need we identified is the continued offering of support to the parents of our students, enabling them to encourage their children to continue with their educational/therapeutic process. We believe this facilitates a planned continuum of services. Parents are advised to have their children maintain a home schedule that parallels the school schedule as closely as possible, avoiding excessive downtime while at home. Parents are also instructed to document and report to our staff therapists any student behaviors of concern.
In turn, the clinicians reach out to these parents and students, offering guidance in exploring ways to ensure the continued mental stability of the students.