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Mansfield University special education Professor volunteers to help kids get ready to learn

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MANSFIELD

SAYRE, PA (WBNG) -- Staff at Little Stars Learning Academy and Counseling Center are busy helping children gain the skills they need to succeed, at a most unusual time, with help from a volunteer expert.

The center offers daycare for children six months up to 12 years old, as well as behavioral therapy and counseling for children who have special needs.

With the COVID-19 pandemic vastly changing the learning environment for many kids, staff say they're busy teaching them how to deal with things like wearing a mask and how to succeed with online learning.

Dr. Allison Polly is a Professor of Special Education at Mansfield University. She volunteers at the center and assists kids who have special needs. She says one of the biggest challenges is getting them adjusted to online learning.

"Instead of really worrying about academic instruction, we're going to condition sixty seconds of attending online, then start to build that up. So you get sixty seconds and you have to follow two directions within that. Then you start to chain that together and work from there," she said.

She says with so many new routines to process in the coming school year, it can be particularly difficult for students with autism to adjust to new transitions. In order for parents to make the adjustment easier, they can use a technique called 'social stories'. Social stories break down situations and how to deal with them, making them easier for kids who have autism to process.

"Depending on how skilled the student is is how long the story is, is part of it, 'you're going to ride the bus with Mr. Joe, he's going to wear a mask you're going to wear a mask, your teacher is going to meet you when you get to school, you have to keep your mask on to go into school,'" she said.

Jack Arpey

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