The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has touched virtually everyone, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who rely upon Triangle’s programs for support. The hard decision to suspend day programming in March in order to keep our community safe was especially difficult because we understood the vital need for continued support as the people in our programs navigated an extremely challenging time. The unfortunate reality is that the quickly changing circumstances and stay-at-home order presented unique needs for the individuals that Triangle serves. As a result, our clinical team quickly found ways to provide the necessary virtual support for all Triangle program participants.
Many of the issues that individuals with disabilities are facing are similar to the challenges everyone is facing during a time of extreme isolation of the stay-at-home advisory in Massachusetts.. Some program participants are currently unable to work and are facing a loss of income. The anxiety from this is compounded by fears about their own health and the health of loved ones. A number of people in our programs also struggled to access technology to stay connected to the programs Triangle has been offering via videoconferencing systems like Zoom. In addition, there are concerns that are more specific to each individual who we serve. The disruption of daily living, changes in sleep or eating patterns, unhealthy eating habits, and confusion have a greater impact on many individuals with disabilities who thrive off of routine and have a difficult time adjusting to change.
Triangle’s clinical team responded to these concerns by offering additional support in every way possible. They immediately provided crucial information on COVID-19 and hygiene, in addition to countless resources for schedule templates, safe activity ideas, and more. Triangle staff members on our clinical team have conducted regular check-ins with managers of all of our major programs across the organization to make sure that the organization was supporting and responding to any emerging needs.
Both program participants and staff members have benefited from training sessions facilitated by the clinical team on a variety of subjects, including coping skills and understanding triggers. For those who had a difficult time adjusting to the technology, there have been additional resources provided on how to fully utilize the Zoom platform for breakout groups or to facilitate group conversations with many participants.. Staff members have been regularly reminding everyone that they are not alone and acknowledging that what they are feeling is normal. Providing our program participants with a sense of routine amidst an uncertain world has also been a crucial part of the clinical team’s plan. Routines can help make a situation feel more comfortable and predictable, and lower stress levels.
The clinical team has tackled the changing situation by continuing to educate themselves. They have researched the best options for telecommunication, regularly ask for feedback, and have remained flexible even as the situation continues to change. They are focused on being role models for positivity for everyone in the organization, staff and program participants alike. Their hard work in providing support to everyone in the organization has helped Triangle continue to best serve the needs of our program participants!