EASTCONN Where Learning Comes to Life

Meeting the Challenge: Delivering Related Services During a Pandemic

Using their expertise, the latest research and collaborative approaches, EASTCONN’s Related Services specialists have continued to deliver critical supports to their students, despite the pandemic. 

“When schools shut down in mid-March, we rapidly shifted to virtual-only platforms to keep children on track to meet their IEP goals,” said Carol Magliocco, who directs EASTCONN’s Related Services group. “Staff adjusted to the monumental change so quickly that only a week or two passed without sessions in place.”

EASTCONN’s Related Services specialists provide assistance year-round to students with IEP goals, ages 3 to 21. Related Services include assistive technology (AT), occupational therapy (OT), physical therapy (PT) and speech-language pathology (SLP). EASTCONN has 23 specialists, many of whom are trained in multiple specialties with their discipline.

Early in the pandemic, staff identified the most effective remote-delivery platforms, like Zoom, FaceTime and Google Meet, and pushed their professional development to master new approaches and unfamiliar tools like Boom Cards and green screens. They also mailed engaging activity packets to students that could be used in combination with virtual therapy sessions, or with a parent. 

Connecting with parents about the best research-based approaches, and figuring out schedules that worked best for families was crucial. 

“As a result, most families chose to continue,” Magliocco said. “We were happy to hear parents reporting that virtual sessions continued to support their child’s progress. It was – and continues to be – a wonderful, collaborative effort on everyone’s part.” 

One parent, whose ninth-grade son receives EASTCONN speech-language services, observed, “While having to quarantine, he continued to receive this needed service virtually … His speech therapist was engaging and kept my son on track during their sessions. Obviously, virtual learning is not ideal, but she did an incredible job helping my son work on his speech goals.”

The more hands-on disciplines like OT and PT were more challenging to deliver.

“You just have to get creative,” said Magliocco. “Or coach the parent. Some children were encouraged to take their therapist on a walk; we’d use fun character emojis attached to popsicle sticks to represent their therapist. That worked great! We also provide short videos for parents, outlining ways to engage with their child to help them meet their goals.”

 “I was on a Zoom with a parent, and the mother commented on the packet of information and activities that were provided, and she was just thrilled to be so well-informed about her daughter’s communication needs and what she could do to communicate more,” said Joanne Lambert, EASTCONN’s AT Specialist. 

Magliocco and Lambert agreed that even after schools fully reopen, many virtual tools and lessons will stay in their tool kit.
“For example, in our autism program we did weekly parent coaching sessions, which proved to be very effective,” said
Lambert. “Parents have asked if this is something we can continue to do, even after we return to all in-person sessions. Many say they feel newly empowered. We plan to keep it up.” 

Lambert shared another tactic that will have staying power: Zoom meetings.

“Pre-COVID, on any given day, we might have needed to be in multiple districts, and couldn’t attend a PPT in-person, which meant we’d use the phone. Now, using a video chat platform like Zoom, we can be in two places more effectively.”   

“We’ve become so skilled at providing virtual services outside of the school setting that we’ll continue to use many of our virtual tools for reinforcement and to support schools – even when we’re back in a regular, in-person school environment,” said Magliocco. “No doubt about it.”

Learn more: Carol Magliocco at cmagliocco@eastconn.org