During these unprecedented times, many non-profits that service individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are using unique and alternative ways to provide educational, wellness, fitness, and arts-related programming to the clients they serve.

   JESPY House, a nonprofit organization in South Orange that provides whole-life services to adults ages 18-73 with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, has embraced alternative methods of program delivery. Using technology to its fullest, JESPY is currently making sessions available to its 260 clients via web sites and messaging apps like Facebook, Snapchat, WebEx and Skype. The ‘Live’ sessions provide important connections with and for clients during a period when JESPY feels it is more important than ever to provide meaningful programming.

   Some of the popular interactive sessions clients are participating in on a daily basis through JESPY’s Social Wellness & Expressive Arts (SWEA) program include Book Club, Drawing, Meditation, Cooking Demos, Indoor Gardening, and more.

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   “The number of clients participating keeps getting bigger,” says SWEA Supervisor Nicole Rambone. “Some clients have never been on Facebook or the other platforms. They may have never participated in a Live chat or group before. What’s great is that they are learning new skills and communicating in new ways.”

   Keeping fitness in the forefront, clients are also taking part in hour-long online exercise sessions. Workouts include cardio, strength training, yoga & stretch, as well as athletics and fitness video discussions via Facebook.

   JESPY’s Day Program clients are participating in connective learning too. Packets that included worksheets and readings were sent home with clients that have little access to social media. JESPY staff provides Facetime and Snap Chat calls to review work with clients. Live group chats dedicated to trivia, demo cooking, relationships, and work experiences are ongoing. Other inter-web groups, conducted via Skype, include daily mediation and yoga.

   “We are going to expand to other apps to try to reach the most clients possible,” says Day Program Supervisor Mike Depoy. “Those clients unable to use technology are being helped by their families. Parents and caregivers are commenting that they love the content being offered.

   Clinical and Behavioral services are being provided online as well, five days a week, with a special emphasis on Managing Different Emotions and Coping.

   So how are clients responding to the online sessions? “They are eager to branch out into this online JESPY community,” explains Rambone. “They are more social because many are overcoming the barrier of face to face socialization. They are opening up and speaking more freely.”