Beatriz Maxson, Learning Independence For Tomorrow Inc. (LiFT)
2020 radically altered the way we live, work and educate our children. While change is challenging for us all; for neurodiverse kids and adults who thrive with predictable routines, change is a incredible stressor. Learning Independence For Tomorrow (LiFT) is a school that serves students with neurodiversity such as autism, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, processing disorders and others. Understanding the needs of our vulnerable population, we took a proactive response by beginning preparations in February for the possibility of remote learning during the pandemic. When our students left for Spring Break vacation in March of 2020, LiFT equipped them with loaner laptops, textbooks, and headsets in case an announcement came during the break that in-person instruction would not be resuming. During the break, the announcement came: schools would no longer resume in person the next week.
Rather than taking time off, LiFT staff took advantage of the break to pivot. That time was spent with Zoom trainings for teachers, staff, students and their parents; and preparations made on campus for the shift to remote learning. Students’ individualized needs were assessed to see what accommodations could be made so they could succeed. Unlike other schools in the country, LiFT didn’t extend vacation days (knowing that doing so would create a burden on families and additional stress for their students). With foresight and planning, LiFT was able to provide 100% virtual class the Monday after spring break. The virtual classes were all interactive live lectures, as LiFT students thrive with face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers to adapt to their unique learning styles. LiFT also provided virtual after-school clubs, speakers, field trips and even cooking classes for our students working on their independent living skills. Reaching beyond the screens, teachers did home visits to drop off care packages to students and provide them with socially distanced encouragement.