As everyone has experienced, everything is fluid, with daily changes related to supporting
people (with and without disabilities) to deal with COVID-19. Here are some thoughts from
Scott and Lori Shepard, Avenues SLS:
We recommend that you develop 1-page descriptions and/or communication dictionaries (or
plans) for each person you support, in the event that they become quarantined or hospitalized
away from people that know them. Our efforts over the past (several) weeks have been to use
Person-Centered Practices to (one person at a time) develop the following for each person we
• Education plans for each person we support and the team and family members that
support them regarding COVID-19 (we like the one by Green Mountain Self-Advocates
• COVID-19 transition books (in writing, with pictures, etc., personalized to individual
learning needs) to help explain the changes in routines people are experiencing in
their lives, and letting them know that we are not the only ones impacted. Note:
Remember to include pet care if applicable.
• Staffing/support plans to minimize the number of people folks are in contact with (no
more than 3 staff per team weekly for 24/7 support).
• Plans to ensure people in community employment have coaches & safety procedures
based on where they work (for those individuals working at essential jobs).
Some Concerns for Providers:
• We are accruing overtime due to Sheltering in Place (at home) while minimizing the
number of team members/housemates each person is in contact with. We hope that
there will be easy solutions by our state and local agencies to get reimbursed for what
is needed.
• We also have staff who are losing hours due to people Sheltering in Place (limiting to 3
staff per team ideally). We are coordinating these staff work to purchase needed foods
& supplies and drop them off at people’s residences without going inside (especially
for people who are the most vulnerable).
• Limit staff from working/supporting people in multiple settings (this includes staff who
have multiple jobs and who spend time in multiple and/or crowded environments).
• We are identifying back-up support options for each team in the event of a sickness
within the team and how to quarantine in home.
For California Providers:
Based on input from the DDS, here are some of the directives we have seen or expect to see:
• Day Programs have authority to provide programming in people’s homes, and have
been encouraged to offer their staff to residential/SLS agencies to support people
who are sheltering at home.
• Check-ins and virtual support for people as well as “teleservice” and creative ways to
assist people to maintain connections and support mental health during the day are
encouraged. DDS has posted some guidelines (3/18/20) for flexibility and waiving
some requirements in supports.

Put Your One Page Descriptions and Communication Plans into Action

If people don’t already have them (or even if they do), we recommend that you adapt a one page descripton for medical professionals, and for potential new staff in the event that staff or family members get sick. Remember to include: (1) What I want my Doctor or Health Care Professional to know about me; (2) How best to support me; (3) Medical basics; and (4) What’s important to me. Example click here
You can find some wonderful examples of One-Page Descriptions and blank templates at Helen Sanderson and Associates (
We also use what we call a Communication Dictionary to assist the individual and support team and to educate and train new staff and community members about the meaning of non-verbal communication and non-traditional ways a person may communicate. It’s an effective communication “bridge” for people while they are getting to know new staff or when they are with people who don’t know them
(for example, medical professionals, community members at a new church/gym/job, etc.)
Bottom line, these two tools can assist people to be more comfortable with any of the new interactions in the community that will likely occur during these changing and stressful times.

Thank you to NorCal Gathering Newsletter and Bill Allen for this valuable information. See full newsletter here

Importance of Rituals and Routines By Michael Smull – This article addresses the need to revisit the rituals and routines that are important to the people we serve and consider ways to maintain them when possible in the new environment. Click here for the complete newsletter.