Roanoke Campus-Based Initiative Serves to Support Intellectually Disabled
Last year, eConnect featured a new pilot program being sponsored by its Roanoke campus called no bounds. Originally founded by Dr. Tina Bhandari who also teaches psychology on campus, the purpose of No Bounds is to help intellectually disadvantaged people 18 and older achieve social and cognitive independence. Its programs provide this through sound education and real-time vocational training, as well as individually- based opportunities to earn qualification for work placement or seek higher education.
As might be expected, when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, this program felt the impact since students could no longer meet on campus. “I was worried at first, but that uncertainty didn’t last long” says Dr. Bhandari. “Almost immediately, President Newby was there asking how he could help. Soon after, we had three faculty and staff members enter the room with iPads ready to help each student get set up, then tested them to make sure each of them knew how to properly use the device. Amazingly, we shut down the campus on March 16 and No Bounds went remote on that same day. Before we knew it, they were off and running!”
Dr. Bhandari says the students’ focus has been incredible. “They are fully engaged with the information being displayed on a shared screen, to the point that the full two hours is not enough for them! Their favorite time is playing Kahoot during the last fifteen minutes of class. The questions are based on their lesson, and they are so engaged to get on that podium (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) they actually listen to or read the questions to get the right answer. This is progress from a game to a testing platform.” (Kahoot! is a game-based learning platform, used as educational technology in schools and other educational institutions. Its learning games, “Kahoots”, are user-generated multiple-choice quizzes that can be accessed via a web browser or the Kahoot app.)
One student, Blake, had a rougher time with remote learning at first, but he is slowly and surely displaying his skills more fully. Now, when he correctly answers, his fellow peers cheer him on. This is a big leap for Blake. In fact, every day is a big leap forward. Another student, Joseph, who joined just before the lockdown, has fully engaged and has become better at self-correcting when he realizes he needs to pay attention better.
As news about the ECPI-No Bounds connection and classes spread among the intellectually disabled community, the program has enrolled three more students. Dr. Bhandari says the consensus among the parents is that during the pandemic, these classes have helped them and their children maintain separate time, and their own spaces. Their homework is a bit tricky, technically, but it gives them dignity, value and importance.