By Molly Wert, MA, BCBA
When Cornerstone re-opened after a six-week closure due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, there were many uncertainties that weighed overhead. Would our children still be able to make gains while social distancing? Would the children who were transitioning into a school setting be able to adapt to the continuous changes? These questions loomed in the back of our minds. Yet, we had no doubt that Cornerstone would set up the children for success despite COVID-19. On May 4, 2020, we saw every child and therapist jump back into therapy, eager for our children to learn, despite the obstacles that the world was facing.
For many years, Cornerstone has provided the opportunity for the children to learn and grow in social situations through systematic programming opportunities. Every child would attend a specified time with other children, as a small group with one on one support, who they could interact with on the same skill level. This allowed for each child to learn various social skills. When social distancing presented itself as an obstacle, Cornerstone initially cancelled these interactions to ensure the safety of every child and therapist.
As the Pandemic continued to affect communities throughout 2020, Cornerstone began to modify programs in various ways for the children to continue to engage in social distancing while still providing these social opportunities. Each child works diligently to gain milestones in skill areas, and we wanted to continue to propel them forward with their growth. Therefore, our team decided to trial various distance learning ideas to prepare our children for the changes in school settings, which included Virtual Learning.
After just a few weeks of trial and error, we were able to create a successful distance learning program. This ensured that every child who was on their way to transitioning into the school setting would feel ready for any type of learning that presented itself. Many schools were turning to distance learning through video format. Our distance learning program mirrors this style and consists of two distance learning lessons everyday via Zoom. The children answer the Zoom call and follow along to the lesson for the day. The children have not only continued to gain social skills with peers via Zoom but have gained many technology-based skills in the process. Each child is working on accepting calls via Zoom, answering questions from someone through video format, muting and unmuting the microphone when it is their turn to talk, and holding a conversation with a peer through this distance learning program.
While COVID-19 is still a challenge, the children are able to navigate that obstacle in a new and exciting way with distance learning. Aside from all of the skills the children are gaining on a daily basis, meeting through Zoom has given each child a new way of learning and has built their confidence in understanding virtual programs before transitioning into the school system. Cornerstone continues to adjust to the changes that COVID-19 presents, working toward setting the children up for success in environments they will face outside of our ABA centers.
March 2, 2021, Molly Wert, MA, BCBA