Thanks to a relatively new program created by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities in response to the pandemic, United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Cleveland now offers vital services remotely to the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) supported by the agency.
“Start Towards Emerging Possibilities” is a virtual program that lets agencies like UCP of Greater Cleveland deliver meaningful activities to people who, due to COVID-19, are unable to or uncomfortable with participating in in-person services,” said Activities and Training Manager Amy Vedova.
The STEP program was made possible thanks to a modification in the guidelines developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow services to be provided in community-based settings. Such flexibilities were not previously allowed, but have become a lifeline in light of long duration of the pandemic.
These remote services have enabled Vedova and her team to get creative with the kinds of supports that can be offered. For example, thanks to the program, two people with physical and cognitive disabilities have been learning English via Zoom.
“Both young ladies are thriving, learning new words, the English alphabet and full sentences,” said Vedova, who combines academic instruction with physical activity to ensure a balanced approach. “This one-on-one time lets me get more familiar with their abilities, needs and preferences which, in turn, leads to them accomplishing more in less time.”
Another STEP participant, Mike LaBrake, who has cerebral palsy, is reaching his personal communication goals, said Vedova, including making eye contact, gaining confidence, socializing and initiating conversations.
Has this made a difference for LeBrake? “So much so,” Vedova says, “that [Mike] asked to represent UCP in a couple of different television appearances, and he’s gained the attention of my son’s high school football team. They made him their ‘12th man’ on their road to the playoffs.”
Vedoza’s son, Colin Phillips, is friends with Mike and plays for Holy Name High School in Cleveland.
“Knowing that he’s a big fan keeps us motivated,” Phillips told a Cleveland television station.