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 through a series of blog posts over the next few days. 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.

Karen McClure-Richard is the director of Pine Tree Society’s Early Learning Center in Auburn.  The Early Learning Center is a specialized preschool for children with significant disabilities; providing critical early intervention and consistent skill building.

“Our children have the highest level of need and without consistent access to our classroom and educators, they would not only lose momentum, they would regress,” said Karen. “An unexpected benefit of distance learning is we have the opportunity to work with parents and their children at the same time.  In our virtual sessions, we’re coaching parents around how their child learns through play and helping them think about learning in a different way. We provide simple, every day activities they can repeat at home that encourage development in their child.”

Karen offers these three tips to help make distance learning a success for preschoolers.

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!

For more information about Pine Tree Society’s Early Learning Center, contact Karen McClure-Richard at 207-386-5943 or

Top 10 Distance Learning Tips

Introduction: Distance LearningPine Tree Society’s Expertise

Tips 1 – 3:  Distance Learning — Linda Bonnar, Director of Communication Pathways

Tips 4 – 6:  Distance Learning — Maura Nolin, Director of Interpreting Services

Tips 7 – 9:  Distance Learning — Karen McClure-Richard, Director of Early Learning Center

Tip 10:  Distance Learning — Dawn Willard-Robinson, Director of Pine Tree Camp

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