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Inside the virtual classroom: Local school switches to full-day, online learning

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VESTAL (WBNG) -- Schools around New York have moved to online learning, offering resources and material to students while they're home.

One local school has shifted its entire day to a virtual classroom, allowing its students to have even more educational opportunities.

The Institute for Child Development, or ICD, is located on the Binghamton University campus.

It provides an array of services, mostly focusing on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"Our children and our families for the children we serve, their lives are significantly disrupted by this change. The kids do depend on a great deal on routine and a lot of their routine gets substantially disrupted," said ICD director of the Children's Unit for Treatment and Evaluation Rachel Cavalari.

That's why the school has shifted to a full-day of online learning.

Students and families can log on to virtual school, offered for five and a half hours each day.

"We certainly don't expect for most of our kids, to have them sit in front of a computer for more than even 15 minutes at a time. For some of our learners, it's very short bursts," said Cavalari.

School leaders say it's meant to provide more opportunities and support for families during this time.

"We can't ask a parent to be a child's occupational therapist, and speech therapist, and special education teacher, immediately, all at once," said co-director Jennifer Gillis.

"If they need to tune in, or they need an idea, or they need a distracter or something to break up what's happening at home, then we can be a part of that," said Cavalari.

Students go over familiar topics, meant to help avoid regression during this time.

"Not so much that your child was going to learn a lot of new skills while they're at home, but we wanted to make sure we're preventing the loss of skills that your child has gained," said Gillis.

It's also helping students connect with their teachers by having the chance to see them everyday.

The school is working to close a gap, while adjusting to this new normal that affects us all.

"Families with children with ASD are no different with or without families, except that they have additional challenges," said Gillis.

ICD consists of four preschool classrooms and six school-aged classes.

Teachers and their teams each take a block of time to split up the virtual day.

The rest of the time is filled with 'ask an expert' sessions, where parents can get tips, resources, and support.

For more information on the Institute for Child Development, click here.

Annie Flaherty

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