SIDNEY — Operations for 2020 and looking forward to 2021 are a bit more challenging at the Shelby County Board of DD (SCBDD).
“Over the past decade, we have encouraged people we support to become more active in their communities. When the pandemic hit, we had to encourage people to stay home. This change in routine was hard on us and very challenging for those we support,” said Superintendent Leigh Anne Wenning.
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Our Early Intervention (EI) works at getting children from birth to age 3 to work through their developmental delays. EI’s model proves that this happens best in the child’s home with their primary caregiver. Families and the EI team were able to adapt with some outdoor visits and virtual meetings to continue this much needed services. After all, referrals for services and a child’s development can’t wait on Covid.
Shelby Hills preschool was also impacted by the challenges of operating in a pandemic. Classrooms operated in much the same manor, though teachers looked a bit different having to wear masks and shields while trying to work with their students. One of the challenges with running morning and afternoon preschool became making sure all areas were sanitized between class times. This was an “all-hands-on-deck’ procedure by teachers and staff.
Challenges were not limited to inside the classroom at Shelby Hills. It turns out preschoolers still really want to interact with other preschoolers, even the ones not in their class. This means recess and arrival/departure times bring many reminders to say ‘hello’ from a distance. With limits on people in the school, this year saw the cancellation of great events like the Holiday Open-house, Grandparent’s Day, and Literacy Week. Though with participation of families and creativity of Shelby Hills staff, these students continue to have fun while learning like any other year.
Years before the term “Covid” was used, County Boards of DD were faced with a decreasing number of Direct Support Professionals (DSP’s). SCBDD continually tries to recruit more DSP’s, but this year’s variables have been especially hard on our system. Without an abundance of DSP’s, who will help people with disabilities when caregivers get sick? What happens when Day Centers are forced to closed and people have 6 more hours at home every day without being able to access their communities? Besides the new adventure of acquiring Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), this was the challenge SCBDD staff and DSP partners had to overcome.
One new way needs were met was by provider agencies sharing their DSP’s. In several instances, DSP’s that usually teach employment skills or do recreation through S&H Products went into homes that are usually staffed with DSP’s from other agencies who primarily work on independent living skills. SCBDD Service and Support Administrators (SSA’s) found themselves not only problem solving and writing new plans but filling in as DSP’s in some cases. SCBDD Community Outreach staff have pitched in by creating full days of virtual activities and supporting DSP’s with whatever needs arise.
Today, the SCBDD partners with the Health Department on linking DSP’s and people we support as they want to receive the Covid vaccine. Though many have already received the vaccine, who is eligible next continues to change across Ohio. This calls all staff to scramble to help people register in 24 hours at times and SCBDD staff have responded well to this challenge. Working this close with our health department was new, but the results were positive!
While we don’t know what new challenges will arise in 2021, be confident that SCBDD will continue to adapt to meet needs and be there for the Shelby County community.