Virginia Institute of Autism being recognized for virtual work

Virginia Institute of Autism being recognized for virtual work

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA) is being recognized for the work it is doing to help its students access the skills they need.

The Mid Atlantic Telehealth Resource Center named VIA runner up for its 2020 “Breaking Barriers Through Telehealth” Award.

“Over that first few months of the COVID pandemic, VIA did over 800 telehealth remote, Zoom behavioral-consult sessions, learning sessions, behavior therapy sessions with our clients, and so we were really honored to get the award,” VIA Director Larry Garretson said.

Students with autism have unique challenges while navigating the coronavirus pandemic and virtual learning. VIA has three components: a day school for kids, outpatient behavioral services, and adult services. The team realized a major issue at the start of the pandemic.

“A lot of our clients were getting 15-to-27 hours a week of services, and for them to drop off entirely and have nothing, and you know, be at home. Our staff realized immediately we can’t let that happen.”Outpatient Services Director Ashley Stonemetz-Walding said.

After several discussions, and thorough research, the team began virtual sessions, but it was not one-size-fits all.

“If a client isn’t able to sit in front of a computer, that’s totally fine, we’ll do parent training. Sometimes, one parent will follow us around with the computer while the mom is working with the client,” Stonemetz-Walding said. “We were able to develop a schedule based on what they could be doing during the day.”

Sheila Wallace has two children at VIA, and says both of her kids are still learning critical skills.

“Teaching them to be independent adults. Another thing about VIA is that they train the parents, that’s very rare,” Wallace said.

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