Special Measures adopted by Stichting Ark during Coronavirus restrictions
From 1st June 2020 the Netherlands will begin further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions. However, the virus is still with us and it’s clear that good hygiene and social distancing will remain an important part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future. This presents particular challenges for Ark. Our clients are vulnerable children with autism, communication difficulties and other complex needs. Each child requires intensive one-on-one support from an adult educator. We are reassured that children are, in general, at lower risk from the virus. However, our model focuses on developing social communication through playful interaction – the very things we are asked to limit in order to reduce the spread of the virus. It is vital that we find a safe way to move forward that allows us to provide as many services as possible in this “new normal” situation. This means we have to make significant adaptations to our working methods, our daily schedule and the location of our service provision. With our high adult to child ratio, we need to take particular care to observe the distancing rules for adults.
In developing the new protocols for continuing care at Ark we have consulted our contract partners, similar care organisations, and the guidelines issued by the government and RIVM (National Institute of Public Health and the Environment). We have contacted parents and staff to discuss needs and adaptations on an individual basis. Our priorities remain the protection of public health, as well as the health and well-being of our staff, our clients and their families.
From the 1st June, we will be offering some more services at Ark for more children. However, group sizes will be limted and we will continue to provide both at-home care and remote services to supplement our on-site provision. We will closely monitor developments and be responsive to any changes in advice from the government or RIVM. If there are no significant changes, we anticipate these protocols will apply at least until the summer vacation
The following new arrangements and protocols for continuity of care will be in place from 01.06.2020:
- A maximum of 3 children and 3 educators in each space.
- A maximum of 1 other staff member/supervisor in each space in case of accident/emergency.
- RIVM protocols for hygiene, health and safety are always observed.
- All adults to maintain 1.5m distance (2 arms’ lengths) at all times.
- Arrival at Ark
- Children are brought to Ark by one parent or member of the child’s household (preferably the same person consistently).
- Public transport and taxis to be avoided if possible.
- Start and finish times are staggered so children do not arrive or leave at the same time.
- Children are met by one educator at the gate, or outside the entrance (parents or other adults do not come into the building).
- Parents, other adults and staff keep at least 1.5m apart.
- Only one educator and one child in the cloakroom area at a time.
- Staff and children wash hands immediately on entering the main space.
- Distancing at Ark
- Educators keep 1.5m distance (2 arm’s lengths) from each other at all times.
- Educators where possible keep 1.5m distance from children (we recognise this is not always possible. Some children may need physical contact in order to feel safe or benefit from Ark’s specific intervention methods. If in doubt discuss this with management).
- Children may play and work together without observing 1.5m distancing (but intimate contact is discouraged).
- Unless absolutely necessary, avoid going to any of the common parts of the building.
- Do not allow visitors into Ark’s spaces.
- No shaking hands.
- As much as possible fixed teams of educators and children are used.
- Where possible, staff and children will not switch between teams.
- The teams will not mix simultaneously in the same space.
- All staff meetings, team meetings, parent meetings, parent conversations etc. take place digitally.
- Personal Hygiene Measures
- Staff and children should wash hands thoroughly (at least 30 seconds) regularly throughout the day. And always: immediately on entering Ark’s main spaces, after being outside or in shared parts of the building, after visits to WC, before eating. Hands should always be thoroughly dried after washing.
- Cough / sneeze into your elbow not your hands (or use a tissue, throw the tissue away immediately, then wash hands)
- In between hand washing avoid touching your own or a child’s face.
- In between hand washing (or where washing is not possible) use antiseptic gel or wipes (but remember that correct hand washing with soap and water is more effective).
- Wear disposable gloves for all personal care procedures. Use a new pair every time. Dispose of gloves safely and then wash your hands thoroughly.
- Environmental Hygiene Measures
- Ventilate the rooms for at least 20 minutes before the arrival of the children, and regularly throughout the day.
- Disinfectant surface wipes and hand gels are in every room. Use gels on hands, and wipes on surfaces, door handles, light switches, handrails, arm rests, and any other commonly touched areas regularly.
- All toys, resources, materials, equipment etc to be regularly disinfected.
- In the main spaces and WC use the soap dispensers, disposable paper towels, and surface sprays (all chemicals must be kept safely out of the reach of children).
- Do not share food or drink items. Use glasses, cutlery and dishes only once. Put all used items into the dishwasher immediately after use.
- At the end of every day, all waste is disposed of safely, and all surfaces, handles, toys, equipment etc disinfected.
- Deep professional cleaning occurs twice per week.
- On-site supervisor is responsible for ensuring that hygiene measures are followed, and that missing or empty hygiene supplies are replaced immediately.
- Reporting and responding to symptoms
Regarding symptoms, Ark applies the general rules of the RIVM. Relevant symptoms
- Common cold symptoms (runny nose, congestion etc)
- A cough
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Raised temperature
- If a child or staff member has any of the above symptoms, Ark is informed as soon as possible and the child or staff member stays at home.
- If anyone in a child’s or staff member’s household has a fever (above 38 degrees) everyone in the household must stay at home.
- If a child develops corona-related symptoms whilst at Ark, parents are asked to immediately collect the child and take them home.
- If a member of staff develops corona-related symptoms while at Ark, they are immediately sent home.
- If in doubt the child’s or staff member’s temperature is taken using an electronic ear thermometer (this is immediately disinfected after use).
- A child or staff member can come to Ark again only when free of all symptoms for 24 hours.
- When a staff member has had corona-related symptoms for more than 24 hours they can make a request to be tested by the GGD (the request must be made via Ark).
- If Ark has two or more cases of corona-related symptoms in staff and/or children this must be reported to the GGD immediately.
- Curriculum and Intervention Adaptations
In general, Ark’s main goal for children is engagement and social communication through playful interaction and warm relationships. During this time of social distancing, while the goals remain the same, our techniques will need to be adapted.
- Generally speaking, social distancing rules mean that Educators will be less closely involved in group activities, and there will be fewer such activities overall. Think about group activities with one Educator closely interacting with the children while others engage with children and support focus from 1.5m distance.
- More individual or pairs sessions than whole group activities.
- No activities such as gym sessions where groups work together.
- Use all small and specialist rooms for more individual or activities in pairs.
- Use all areas of the space creatively to maximise chances of maintaining distance.
- For group activities such as circle times, be creative about how you set these up and make it possible for educators to keep 1.5m distance from each other. See this as an opportunity to increase the children’s independence and social communication with each other.
- It is also an opportunity to work on communication across distance – an important developmental step. However, be careful about noise levels and remember that mostly you will need to have the child’s attention before you can effectively communicate.
- Going outside to parks, playgrounds, shops etc. is allowed, but avoid public transport, busy and highly populated areas, and strictly observe the social distancing rules as set out above.
- Trips for scheduled activities such as the climbing centre, Monkey Town etc are cancelled until further notice.
- Sessions by visiting specialists
- Scheduled individual sessions from specialists such as speech therapists, music therapists etc will not take place at Ark, but may be provided digitally where possible. For digital specialist sessions, an Ark educator will provide support to help the child focus.
- Scheduled specialist group sessions (such as ‘memotion’ group movement sessions) are cancelled until further notice
- Risk Groups
- If a child or staff member is in an ‘at risk group’ they should not come to Ark.
- Children or staff members who have someone in their household in an ‘at risk group’ should also consider not coming to Ark.
- These decisions should be taken in consultation with the child’s parents, staff members, Ark management and the child’s or staff member’s own medical professionals as appropriate.
- If staff are absent due to corona-related symptoms or the above-mentioned risk factors, a suitable replacement will be sought where possible.
- If replacement staff cannot be found, parents may be asked to keep a child at home until suitable staff can be found.
- If a member of staff is sent home during the day and suitable replacement staff cannot be found, parents may be asked to collect a child and take them home.
- Supplementary support outside Ark
Where children are attending Ark for fewer hours than normal, Ark will continue to provide a range of support and off-site services as detailed in our document ‘New arrangements for continuity of care during Coronavirus Restrictions’.