Just like every organization in California, in the country, and indeed in the world, CEID has never seen a year like 2020.
“I’ve been in the field for 39 years, without a doubt this has been the most unusual set of circumstances I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime,” said Speech and Language Therapist Carol Lettko.
But CEID has not let these difficult times hinder efforts to deliver life-altering care. With a focus on flexibility and teamwork, CEID started the 2020-2021 school year by welcoming students back for preschool, specialized therapies and childcare, with options for both in-person or distance learning.
Extensive new protocols are in place to minimize risk and promote staff and student safety. From temperature and symptom checks, to mask-wearing, to children each having their own personal art supplies, to seemingly endless handwashing & sanitizing, day-to-day life at CEID looks quite different these days.
One of the most difficult changes has been the need to keep students in separate pods with no cross interaction among the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Classrooms and Sunshine Classroom. CEID prides itself on inclusion with children in all classrooms interacting and learning together, and with parents and caregivers frequently visiting as active members of the community. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made this impossible. Classrooms remain separate and parents drop off their children without ever entering the Center.
“We had an open-door policy, so now literally closing the door has been really hard,” shares Sunshine Teacher Isabel Lee.
Despite these challenges, students, parents, and staff have stayed positive and open to changes. With every passing week, CEID is starting to feel familiar again. “I’ve been so impressed with the education team and how we’re supporting each other and supporting our families. Our staff has been super creative and really stepped up through problem solving,” said Program Director and Teacher Jessica Salaam.
In responding to differing needs of families and staff, CEID continues to provide distance learning and virtual services for families who prefer to stay home. Carol started conducting her speech and language therapy sessions entirely through tele-therapy in March and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
While working remotely has certainly presented challenges for therapists, it has not been without benefits. Because many families are at home together, Carol gets to work with entire families rather than just the individual students. CEID strives to help the “whole” child and the “whole” family so this has been a positive opportunity to adapt CEID’s mission even more fully.
“The opportunity to coach families on how to work on specific goals with their child and the
overall level of connection and collaboration with families has been amazing,” said Carol.
To make in-person programs possible, Isabel praises CEID’s steady leadership, specifically Executive Director Cindy Dickeson, in guiding the Center through its re-opening process. Isabel has been particularly impressed by Cindy and management’s ability to quickly become experts on a range of safety protocols from cleaning products, to public health orders, to air quality indexes.
“Cindy’s capacity to take these challenges and break them down and understand them from the inside out is truly commendable. I think an organization is only as strong as their leader and our leader is the strongest,” remarks Isabel.
Carol echoed the statement, expressing that watching CEID staff work in the face of adversity has been, “true teamwork at its best.”