The 2020/2021 school year is approaching and schools are preparing for multiple scenarios – one of which is distance learning. Pine Tree Society was able to jump in and support schools and their students with special needs during the spring shutdown. There’s no doubt about it, we learned a lot. Everyone did. We wanted to share our Top 10 distance learning takeaways. Please know, we are here to support your school, your teachers and your students whatever comes this fall – distance learning, a hybrid model or in-person instruction.

Pine Tree Society is a leader in distance learning for students with special needs.  From early intervention for preschoolers to maintaining speech and language skills in high school, Pine Tree Society is expert at meeting the individual needs of students of all ages.

“Our expertise and infrastructure sets us apart and allows us to respond quickly,” said Terry Berkowitz, chief operating officer of Pine Tree Society. “For example, after the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly put an end to in-person classrooms and services for Maine people with disabilities, within one week’s time, we started supporting students and clients through distance learning.”

Pine Tree Society is invested in the success of distance learning for people with disabilities and is committed to making a positive impact in students’ lives.

Here are our top tips for making distance learning a success.

TIP #1

Motivate and engage. Keep the philosophy that YES this child can participate and be successful to the best of their ability in distance learning and telepractice sessions.  Keep in mind that just because you are in front of a computer screen, it doesn’t mean you have to sit for the whole session.  If needed, build in movement activities too!

TIP #2

Be creative. Look for blogs, ask or follow fellow colleagues, and, if you have social media accounts like Facebook and Instagram, look for groups that are posting tips and ideas. Search “distance learning” on for free resources every week!

TIP #3

Be flexible. Look for activities that can meet multiple goal areas rather than worrying about one activity for each goal.  Remind yourself and others that it won’t look the same and it won’t always be perfect, but we are in this together, and together we can succeed!

TIP #4

For Deaf students:  Share materials, lesson plans and lesson goals with the interpreter in advance of the lesson.  This allows the interpreter to support the short and long-term goals of each assignment.

TIP #5

For Deaf students:  Do a test run on technology before the student is present.  Video interpreting requires a stronger connection than video meetings that use spoken language.  Hard wired connections are best.

TIP #6  

For Deaf students:  Consider the strengths and learning style of the student and be creative and flexible.  Remember, when the Deaf student isn’t looking at the screen they can’t “hear” what is being taught.  Also, interpreters need to be able to hear all the conversations in the room.

TIP #7

Start small and work your way up. Start with one session a week, co-treat with another therapist if possible, and slowly build up as appropriate for all involved. We don’t want the children to become overwhelmed and refuse altogether. One is better than none!

TIP #8

Remember that there may be multiple learners in the home and a limited number of devices. Work with families to schedule times that work best for everyone and try to ensure that everyone gets a break from the screen.

TIP #9

Use virtual backgrounds to keep children engaged. Children struggle to maintain attention during distance learning, so keep your screen exciting and fresh. Change your background as needed to keep their attention. You can also match backgrounds to themes or stories!

TIP #10

Don’t be too hard on yourself.  As professionals, we want to be able to connect with every child, every day.  We all have days that are challenging. We just need to accept that and try again the next day.

Through strategic use of technology, Pine Tree Society meet the needs of students statewide; bringing much needed services to rural parts of the state where access would otherwise be limited.  To find out how Pine Tree Society can support your school, please contact Terry Berkowitz, Chief Operating Officer at 207-443-3341 or

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