Our year has begun at TCP! One month in, and we almost feel like we’ve always been working virtually. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but collectively the TCP staff has gone from “how are we going to do this” to “we’ve got this” in an impressively short time. Our growth—meaning our ability to provide our full range of services and support to our families and participants—from March 9 (our last day on campus) to now, has been stunning. TCP is proud of our current program and I believe we have once again shown that we are on the cutting edge.
One of our biggest concerns about trying to support our participants virtually was the challenge of keeping people engaged and communicative. We thrive on warm, emotional, gestural communication that attunes to participants’ individual differences and gives them lots of chances to interact experientially (i.e., not just talking and listening, but doing). How do we do this through a computer screen?
We are still learning and improving every day, but we have learned a few things:
- We can still be warm, genuine, playful communicators in cyberspace. We might have to exaggerate our affect a little more, or support participants more directly in staying focused on their communication partners, but authenticity still comes through and still draws people together.
- While technology creates some limits, it also removes others and offers enhancements that enrich the learning experience. Our staff has embraced a wide variety of online interactive games, activities, academic lessons, and conversation starters. Many of these activities are enormously fun and enriching, and have brought joy and connection to our sessions with participants.
- “Synchronous” sessions (a tech word for being together live online in a virtual space like Google Meet) can make up a large part of every participant’s day productively; there’s no need to simply create assignments that participants do on their own “after the call”. While sitting in front of a screen for long periods can be fatiguing, we are also learning to do yoga or other exercises together, to have dance parties, to complete science experiments, and more, all while together virtually.
- Connecting with others virtually allows for people to join from far away, opening up new possibilities for TCP’s reach and effectiveness. From a participant joining classes from another country to extended family members who live outside of Atlanta joining TCP’s educational opportunities, to the ease of caregivers and staff joining meetings at the last minute without commuting to Decatur, the virtual environment shrinks the world in some ways and offers new opportunities.
- We can still support our community partners and connect with our donors using creativity and the power of the Internet. Look for some virtual events coming from us soon!
TCP is mindful of the fact that the pandemic has created challenges for the global community, and every day I am struck by the scope of what is happening, by the hardships people around the world are facing, and by the hard work we all have ahead of us. I am also extraordinarily grateful that we have access to good Internet and related technology, and that the members of the TCP community can still find strength and support from each other.
We are not holding each other’s physical hands right now, but symbolically, technologically, our hands are reaching out, beckoning others to join with us, holding the particular needs of our families close, and working together with our participants to shape their futures and work towards their goals.
– Dave Nelson, Executive Administrative Director