Adelphi coronavirus fix mixes compassion, innovation

Shore enough: Author, professor and autism advocate Stephen Shore applauds the outreach of Adelphi University's autism-focused Bridges to Adelphi program during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pandemic may close college campuses, but it can’t kill a school’s spirit, or compassion.

This week, Adelphi University announced efforts to keep up with some of the most vulnerable members of its community, even through the teeth of COVID-19’s quasi-quarantines.

The Garden City-based university announced it was ramping up support for students on the autism spectrum, with its Bridges to Adelphi program reaching out remotely to students and their families, and also continuing services through the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program – which, in addition to operating a toll-free crisis hotline, is well-known for its group sessions and other in-person support efforts.

Such social niceties, of course, are a no-no in the Age of Coronavirus, so the Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program staff is “working diligently to develop creative programs to meet the needs of our community,” according to hotline Executive Director Reyna Mahado.

Trained volunteers – including bilingual crisis workers – are taking hotline calls remotely, while social workers and program interns are still scheduling individual therapy sessions.

Mitch Nagler: Busier than ever at Bridges to Adelphi.

The hotline is also in the process of transforming many of its in-person workshops and educational sessions into webinars; a recent session focused on breast cancer-related sleep disturbances is now available online.

And Breast Cancer Hotline & Support Program staffers are preparing an innovative online art-therapy workshop focused on using visual arts to explore feelings, increase self-awareness and cope with life’s challenges. Limited to 10 participants, the online workshop is slated to run on Wednesdays in May and registration is underway.

Meanwhile, noting that “students on the autism spectrum … thrive in routine,” the Bridges to Adelphi program – which offers comprehensive academic, social and vocational services for campus community members with autism spectrum disorder and other learning disabilities – is getting creative “to help see this community through this difficult time,” according to a program statement.

In addition to daily virtual meetings with students via the Zoom videoconferencing platform – usually set when students would otherwise be meeting Bridges staffers in person, to maintain that critical sense of regularity – Bridges to Adelphi has been scheduling additional video sessions, including group social sessions and vocational-training sessions.

“We’re able to do more support meetings because we are no longer limited by office space,” noted Bridges to Adelphi Director Mitch Nagler. “And our grad assistants have more time, as many who had internships or externships are no longer doing them.

“Our goal is to be the most consistent part of our students’ lives by providing them the same services that they were receiving when school was open,” Nagler added.

For the 101 students and 15 Adelphi alumni currently enrolled in the Bridges to Adelphi program, this is much more than lip service, noted Clinical Assistant Professor of Education Stephen Shore, author of “Understanding Autism for Dummies,” “College for Students With Disabilities” and several related titles.

“By supporting each other and working together, we will come through this event even stronger and more prepared for meeting challenges and promoting fulfilling and productive lives for autistic individuals as the rule, rather than the exception,” said Shore, who is on the autism spectrum. “And I think that holds true for everyone else.”