Program Profile: Virtual L.I.F.E.

September 14th, 2021

By Cara Fullerton, Autism Counsellor

Like many other programs affected by the pandemic, our L.I.F.E. Program was forced to close without much notice. The virtual version of the L.I.F.E. program began from humble beginnings, starting with the goal of creating a temporary means of keeping individuals connected and supported while stuck at home.

However, as time went on, and the stay at home orders became more frequent, the Virtual L.I.F.E. program continued to grow and has blossomed into a program that has been able to ensure continued growth, support, and maintenance for our entire group of program participants.

What We Learn at L.I.F.E.

The Virtual L.I.F.E. program incorporates music therapy, pro- social and emotional learning, math, language arts, art therapy, and most importantly FUN!  Each session is two hours and the material is carefully crafted to address each participant’s unique skillset and goals. Throughout the session, staff use verbal, written, gestural, and/or modelling based supports when teaching skills as a means to ensure optimum participant success.

When delivering the lessons, staff are able to gauge how the material is being understood by each participant, and tailor it when needed to ensure that it is adequately addressing the learning needs of each individual. To this point, staff are continuing to document participant’s progression towards their goals, and hone in on undeveloped or developing skills, while also ensuring skill maintenance.

Families Help Make The Program A Success

In addition to the support of staff, it is essential for us to acknowledge the role of parents in the success of this program. Parents have taken on the role of at home Autism Counsellors, supporting participants and staff in the delivery and success of the program. This has created a fantastic opportunity, involving families in a new and unique and hands on way, and has been a great relationship building opportunity for all of us.

The Virtual L.I.F.E. program has been able to provide the participants and their families with normalcy, routine, and structure in a time of uncertainty and change, while also offering supports to combat increasing mental health concerns. The Virtual L.I.F.E. program become much more than just virtual ASD supports, and created a sense of community for staff, participants, and their families. The Virtual L.I.F.E. program runs in a culture of hope, strength, and resiliency that brings everyone together.

Living in a time of such uncertainty, the Virtual L.I.F.E. program has been able to successfully meet the needs of the participants and their families. In such times of personal and global hardships, the Virtual L.I.F.E program is continuing to act as bridge that connects participants and their families to each other and to staff in a very meaningful and impactful way.

What Parents Are Saying

To best express how much of a meaningful impact the Virtual L.I.F.E. program has had on participants and their families, it is important to review some of the feedback that we have received:

In one particular session, the lesson was on life skills—particularly how to properly do laundry and use a washing machine and dryer. The next week, a parent told staff that their son, for the first time, independently used the washing machine and dryer for his clothes!

Another parent expressed how the Virtual L.I.F.E. program as been a blessing to her son and their family. She continued to state to staff just how incredibly thankful she was for the Virtual L.I.F.E. program.

Another parent says,

When first approached about the idea of David doing virtual we were a little skeptical.  However the counsellors at LIFE assured us that David would be able to handle it and could actually benefit from the experience.  When we approached David with the idea, not only was he welcome to the idea but became very excited at the idea of seeing his peers and counsellors on the iPad screen.  David quickly learned how to log himself in to ZOOM meetings and patiently waited for Virtual to start each morning.  When I left for work at night, he would remind me to bring home the printouts for the following day’s lessons.  We got to see first-hand how he actively participated with Virtual lessons and with Mr. Ben [music teacher] as well.  Virtual helped David maintain structure during these unprecedented times and allowed us time to complete tasks around our home knowing that he was cared for and was learning just as if he was at in person.