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Family finds comfort, support from BOCES while learning at home
“He definitely misses his friends and being able to see everyone face-to-face,” Mandy said of her soon-to-be-9-year-old, “but he’s enjoying being home and getting more family time. The difference has been how hands-on the BOCES staff has been. Whether it’s apps on a phone or more online access, or being able to text with his teacher, it’s just been so much easier.”

Mandy explained that her son, enrolled in the Reclaim program at BOCES’  West Learning Center, benefits from various learning methods.

“It’s harder to keep him sitting still,” she explained, “so it’s better to be able to have apps and access on the phone (rather than a PC or laptop). He can be comfortable sitting in bed reading, or getting up and walking around listening to his books.”

“Robbie and his mom have been so involved during this period of online learning,” said Angelia Saraceno, a special education teacher at BOCES who leads Robbie’s classroom at WLC. “Mom is super-involved in our virtual classroom and she’s always willing to share things that she thinks will benefit others. She truly understands what our classroom and school community are all about.”

Mandy said she appreciates the consistent access for Robbie.

“There’s constant interaction. They have a couple different things we can do to stay connected,” she said of Saraceno and the BOCES efforts. “We can text her any time we want or need, they call or check in once a week, or we’ll have a video chat. Reclaim has also started a live counseling session so they can keep that, with his group counseling, and then he also has individual counseling once a week.”

While it’s been good, this unfamiliar approach during an unorthodox time, Mandy also described her life right now as a bit akin to an Allstate Insurance “Mayhem” TV commercial. Speaking with her by phone, she shared that the upheaval in the background was a mix: Robbie, a 10-year-old sibling, two more, ages 3 and 2, then the baby at 6 months old. The glue is the family dog’s non-stop barking.

“We try our best to go with the flow, even if we take breaks in between with the school work. We’re spread pretty thin,” Mandy said, laughing.

She also has the perspective of having another child attend school in a district.

“The district does a good job, but I’ve seen both aspects on the spectrum,” she said. “I have to give a giant amount of credit to the people with Reclaim at BOCES. They’re very hands-on. They let you know you’re not going through this alone.”

Mandy said members of the Reclaim staff are always acknowledging students’ efforts by sending home “surprises” and certificates.

“They’re also working hard to be sure the kids are being fed, and Rock-On Café has been great. They have the resources, even if parents need help, they’re there for us, and not just for the children. It’s very comforting. Being able to have a face-to-face connection, it’s different than just a phone call, especially for a child. They can show each other their worlds and that means a lot.”

“(Mandy) is always willing to talk in order to help not only Robbie, but her other children, too,” said Angelia. “She’s always looking for ways to make sure Robbie is staying engaged in his learning at home. Even through the video chats, Robbie’s personality comes through and he shines. He’s very funny and when he’s not tired, he’s very chatty. He’s a delight to have in both the physical and virtual classrooms.”

“I think it’s changed how they learn,” Mandy said, “because some kids don’t learn that way best and they need a visual boost. It makes it a lot easier.”

What’s Robbie think?

“I really like talking to my teacher,” he said, in a less chatty time over the phone. “I like that I can still talk to my school.”
“It’s kind of a mix,” his mom added. “While he likes being home with Mommy and having that family time, he misses his teachers and his friends because he’s found a home at West Learning Center. It’s like not seeing half your family.”
 
Robbie Barnhart snapshot enjoying class time before schools closed
 
Robbie working on lessions from home 
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Broome-Tioga BOCES   435 Glenwood Road Binghamton, NY 13905 Phone: (607) 763-3300
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