Bringing Individuals With Special Needs to the Virtual World

By Jake Haw, FCSN South Bay (W.I.L.L.) Adult Day Program Coordinator

The Bay Area was hit really hard with the arrival of the global pandemic to the United States. California’s governor issued a Shelter-in-Place order, forcing everyone to stay in their own homes for safety. What did this mean for clients who attend FCSN’s Day Program regularly? Responding immediately, FCSN’s different management teams and all staff discussed and collaborated on a solution to this: Virtual Classes for these wonderful clients to replace the activities at the Day Program.

Each week of classes start by allotting time for greetings and checking-in on the clients to see how they are doing and if they want to share anything interesting from their day or weekend. Some days, instructors create a theme to generate extra enthusiasm, such as Hat Day, when clients wear favorite hats, showing a bit more of their personalities, or share a favorite book for “Book Day.” Excitement and smiles abound as clients share their items during the week. Classes also include physical fitness, social development, and academic excellence, as well as some creativity classes.

FCSN instructors prepare different exercises throughout the day to create variety. For physical fitness, clients enjoy Zumba with teach Hanh on Monday; Yoga with teachers Jake and Ramona on Tuesday; Stretching and Nutrition with teachers Jeffrey and Phyllis on Wednesdays; Aerobic with teachers Kim and Darlynn on Thursdays; and Stability & Exercise with teachers Michael and Corinna on Fridays. Every day, clients sweat some as they exercise through look dancing, stretching, and doing cardio exercises that really engage their bodies. Not only do clients love it, but some of their parents join in and love it, too. These activities encourage clients to maintain their physical health and participate together and enjoy.

For social development, teachers Phyllis and Jeffrey offer Social Stories class, focusing on important social skills like ways to deal with strangers, using polite words and manners, what to do when lost, working together as a team, among many more. Clients participate and learn through watching videos, participating in question-and-answer segments, giving their own examples, and singing a song to end the class.  Clients say that they enjoy learning social skills through this fun class.

An FCSN virtual lunch.

FCSN continues to offer classes in Reading and Money Management, plus new class to inform clients about the novel coronavirus. Classes are taught with a smaller ratio, four clients to one instructor.  This allows for a more focused discussion to enhance learning, based on client skill level, which enhances interest and focus to maximize learning. Clients have shared that these smaller classes make participation easier for them. They give these classes two thumbs up!

Known for bringing out client creativity, FCSN offers a spectrum of classes to meet client needs: Body Percussion class with teachers Po, Stanley, and Jeffrey; Performing Arts with teachers Phyllis and Corinna; Cooking with teacher Darlynn, Kim, Casie, and Ramona; Arts and Crafts with teacher Emily, Ann, Darlynn, and Corinna; and Games with teachers Jake and Emily. Classes are designed so clients can use resources they have at home.  

To simulate FCSN Day Program’s lunchtime that offers clients time for interaction, teachers created a virtual lunch daily at noon. Clients share just as they would at the Day Program, using the time to eat and talk about food, sharing stories about their lives as friends do.  Interestingly, clients practice cleaning up and washing their plates and utensil after they eat, practicing self-case and independence in a safe environment.  Clients even check up on each other and remind each other to get ready for the next class.

Special Clubs offer a variety of topics, everything from travel to movies to music. In the future special clubs will expand to include photography, beauty for ladies and a mirror club for the gentlemen. Not only do these clubs offer interesting topics to prompt discussion, they also enhance client engagement and focus as clients participate in distance learning classes in the Virtual Day Program. The pandemic has shown that FCSN clients, like students in elementary, middle, high school and college, can actively learn through remote classes. 

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