Autism early intervention therapy for children supported through pandemic emergency funding

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Children and youth with special needs and their families have received support from Reach Child and Youth Development Society (REACH) for more than 60 years in Delta, Surrey and Langley. Every year Reach provides support for 1,200 children from birth to nineteen years of age with Autism, and developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, learning disabilities, physical disabilities, behavioural and mental health challenges. The family-centered, individualized, and responsive approach means that families experience success
and each child is given the opportunity to reach their potential.

With emergency funding of $25,805 from the Delta Foundation, the “Virtual Autism Early Intervention Therapies Program” is ensuring REACH can provide online autism-related sessions so that children continue to receive the support programs and services that they need to reach their potential. The program also sees that families are supported with the tools, materials, equipment and guidance necessary to support their child’s continued development from home where in-person services are not feasible.

The funding comes from the Emergency Community Support Fund, during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, administered across the country by Community Foundations of Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada, along with two other networks, United Way Centraide and Red Cross.

With restrictions to in-person services during the COVID-19 pandemic, REACH has developed this telehealth virtual service program to maintain contact with vulnerable families to assist with children’s challenging behaviours and work with parents to develop strategies to continue their child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) within their homes. The virtual autism therapies require materials to accompany the children’s IEP’s including tools for skills development, behaviour modelling, reduction, acquisition, and sensory processing. Life-skills for the children to learn include toileting, eating, sleeping, bathing, dressing as well as tolerance, communication, and learning to use alternative and adaptive communication tools.

For this new virtual program, each of the staff needs to use an iPad to deliver remote services to observe sessions and coach families. Each family needs two iPads: one for observation and one for the parents(s) to use to teach the child. Many of our families do not have access to the technology needed to communicate virtually nor the resources to purchase any.