a screen shot of a children's activity video

The St. Louis Arc provides a variety of supports to children and families throughout the area. Children are supported through therapy in the home or in childcare centers, vital developmental equipment is provided to families of young children, and key parenting skills are taught and improved upon. Over the past two months, as the agency transitioned to virtual supports, the Children’s Services team identified ways to continue to provide support to children and families during an especially difficult time.

Therapy

The Arc’s therapy and behavior teams are providing 1-on-1 support to children through virtual interactive therapy sessions. Many families look forward to their sessions where parents are participating fully with their child. The Arc therapists often identify common household items prior to the sessions and email resources or physically mail simple related items to the child to use during their sessions. Parents also receive coaching, daily activities, and intervention ideas to support the family as a whole as they navigate life at home during the pandemic.

Center Support

Arc therapists are continuing to support our partner sites in Normandy. While childcare centers closed their doors during the stay-at-home order, there were some centers that stayed open to provide care for children of essential workers. Therapists are providing virtual consults and brainstorming meetings with teachers and directors. They are sending an “Activity of the Day” that uses materials the center is likely to have on hand to stimulate the development of speech/language, sensory, and motor skills of the children attending.  For the centers who are scheduling to reopen, the Arc is preparing lesson plan ideas to help teachers address the unique needs of children upon their return to group care.

Children and Families

The Capable Kids and Families (CKF) and Parents Learning Together (PLT) programs have also continued to provide virtual support to parents and children. CKF has adjusted from a monthly home visit to multiple, shorter virtual check-ins throughout the month to provide more resources and encouragement to families. PLT staff have connected with families despite limited access to technology and Wi-Fi for many of the families in the program. Through telephone conversations, parents have continuously been able to receive parenting strategies and resources.

The families in the PLT program have faced additional challenges during the pandemic. 99% of families in the program do not have transportation and rely on PLT to assist with grocery shopping, getting to doctor appointments, and accessing community supports. The Arc received a grant from the United Way which allowed staff to purchase and distribute emergency food and supplies, as well as learning activities, to families in the PLT program. Thank you United Way!

Challenges

Access to technology for families isn’t the only challenge for families. Many families have struggled with transitioning their children to virtual schooling. A child’s personal attention span and need for physical breaks can present difficulties in receiving supports. Generally parents are feeling overwhelmed and adding new use of technology can be frustrating.  In addition to the typical family responsibilities, parents and caregivers are having to fill the roles of therapists and teachers while also juggling working from home or in the community. Throughout the Arc’s programs, staff are providing resources, guidance, and often just a listening ear to families who are navigating a new and stressful daily routine.

While the pandemic has been challenging for everyone, the Arc is working hard to continually adapt our services to provide supports to children and families in ways that make a meaningful difference in their lives.

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