CLEVELAND — Summit Education Service Center occupational therapist Mary Lynn Mack sat down with student Miranda, who has autism, and showed her a program where music plays as a way to incentivize Miranda to type what she sees on the screen.  

Mack said it is much easier sitting next to her. 

“Just being able to be here with her really helps. Virtually it a struggle to focus her attention," Mack said. 

What You Need To Know

  • Occupational therapists have had to adapt to virtual sessions since the pandemic started

  • They have to add more steps to their sessions

  • Fixing technical problems through a camera lens can be difficult for a student with special needs

During the height of the pandemic, Mack had to do her sessions through a camera lens, adding new hurdles. When the session with Miranda went virtual, one of those hurdles popped up.

"Can you hear me?" Mack asked Miranda.

Technical issues arose at the start of the session, which Mack said are harder to fix over the computer with someone who has special needs. 

“If a student is struggling, not being able to be with them is definitely a struggle," Mack said as she walked down the hall to fix the audio. 

Mack said the only workaround is to add more steps in a session and a hybrid schedule that mixes in virtual and in person sessions has mixed results. 

“Students thrive on structure. Being in a structured environment helped them a lot. Students needed printing to get back into the routine. Some students struggled to get back into the routine," Mack said. 

But she still only has 30 minutes per session, meaning she may have to take time out of it to just to test out the software, equipment and to keep her student focused. She said parents at home with the children helped them stay on track. 

“Teaching them Zoom as well as the student was definitely something that was hard to do," Mack said.