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Theodore Roosevelt said: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” With all of the challenges of COVID happening, we decided that we could not let COVID stop us from helping people with disabilities. With Department of Health closures, we just had to think of new ways to do so. Thus, we now offer day programs as remote/virtual learning!

For people with disabilities, social isolation is nothing new.

Research shows up to half of people with intellectual disabilities are already chronically lonely. As a matter of fact, this loneliness worsens the mental and physical health problems they face. People with disabilities are less likely to have long-term friendships or relationships. Altogether, the pandemic has only intensified this social isolation. We at Adelante have always strived to help people with disabilities realize their talents and potential. Their best lives. Therefore, we knew we needed to do something to combat that isolation due to COVID. These virtual day programs have been great for the learning and also mental health of our clients.

Community Options has Gone Virtual – Including Remote Learning with Yumi!

Currently, virtual learning is offered through Adelante with two sets of offerings. First, Yumi from our Pathways team is hosting a general learning track similar to our Community Options programs. That might involve reading, exploring art techniques, or learning new dance steps. Karaoke, seated workouts, range of motion classes, movies, and even guessing games are all activities people are participating in virtually. She has a fun personality and is a familiar, friendly face for our clients. She also welcomes new participants.

Furthermore, this virtual world has not stopped Adelante clients from doing hands-on activities. Our staff even puts together activity bags for clients to pick up. The clients then take them home and can do art, like drawing on canvases, via Zoom.

Like everyone, the virtual world is a good outlet for Pathways clients to maintain a sense of purpose and a strong social life. They love to see their peers again, “They love to see each other on Zoom and interact with each other,” said Yumi. “They talk about their day, what they had for lunch, and what kind of activities they want to do next month.”

Yumi, and Adelante staff member, plays a YouTube video for day services clients as part of virtual learning.
Here, Pathways staff and clients can virtually read a story together!

Dog training over Zoom? You better believe it!

Second, Dani, our dog trainer, is hosting online classes on behalf of our Arts and Animals team. “We’re trying to do the same skills we were working on when we were together,” said Dani Miller, who is in charge of dog training at Adelante’s Arts and Animals. The group has adapted to this new way of learning. They continue to help dogs gain the skills to go out into the community with their owners. In other words, they teach commands likes “sit,” “stay,” “down,” and “under.”

Our trainer, Dani, trains dogs at the Arts and Animals building. Dog training is one of the day services we offer over Zoom.
The Arts and Animals program has plenty of space to set up a dog training course. Clients then join via Zoom.

Offering activities remotely came with a learning curve…and success.

For so many of us, the new realities of the virus have meant we do things virtually. Adelante has adapted by thinking of creative ways to engage and entertain our clients. While there was a learning curve for staff and clients alike, Dani and the Arts and Animals clients have undeniably succeeded. Dani sets up agility equipment or other dog training scenarios, and clients watch and provide ideas through Zoom. Clients cue the dogs through their screen, with the dogs listening to their voices. The dog may then do something like run through a tunnel or jump on a table.

Like everything else, it still is harder to do dog training virtually than in-person. Sometimes, the dog listens, and other times it takes extra body language from Dani in the room. “It’s hard to get as much training for each dog, but we’re doing it,” said Dani.

And as we hoped, our clients are thriving. Over all, they greatly enjoying being involved again and seeing each other. Both the clients and Dani feed off of each other and pass ideas around. “They tell me: ‘Maybe you should try this on Zoom,’” said Dani. In fact, they’re remembering what Dani taught them and giving her advice. “If I’m overwhelmed, the clients tell me ‘just take a deep breath, and look at the ground,’ which is what I taught them.” They are all celebrating each other with their different abilities.

New clients are welcome via remotely learning, too!

We at Adelante want everyone in our community, including people with disabilities, to stay connected and have opportunities to learn and grow as the pandemic continues. Remote learning is a new initiative to support this. If you or someone you know would like to attend virtual day services, reach out to us and learn more. Just email us at ExplorePrograms@GoAdelante.org for more information. We accept funding from the DD Waiver, Mi Via Waiver, or private pay.

If you’d like to support programs like this, please donate today! Thank you.