Jul 8, 2022 Virtual Clubhouse Supports Children with Brain Injuries

virtual clubhouse

A unique program innovates to help adults and children recover from brain injury.

When lockdowns created by the pandemic began, the staff at Opportunity Project, a program for adults with brain injury, knew they had to pivot quickly. Members of the Opportunity Project Clubhouse were relying on them as they worked to rebuild their life skills—and they were used to meeting in person at the Millburn-based facility.

“People were in a panic,” says Jacqueline Marino Rizzi, Cognitive and Community Integration Skills Counselor. “We had to think fast. Right a way, we created a Facebook private group for members. But we knew our members varied greatly in technology know-how and access.”

The staff learned how to create meetings that members could join by either video or phone. They helped those without an internet connection get one. Members left their iPads out on their porches so a staffer could download the apps needed for virtual meetings. Soon, just about everyone had the appropriate technology to participate in video calls.

“Then we made sure to keep our programs very consistent, because our members are routine-oriented,” Marino Rizzi says. “We held the groups at the same times and we provided reminders to make sure people would stay engaged.”

A New Model

Now there’s a range of new services, including Mental Health Mondays, Grief Counseling Tuesdays, Wellness Wednesdays, Team-Building Fridays and an Adjustment Counseling Group on Saturdays. There’s virtual cognitive retraining, adaptive chair yoga, music therapy, team building, stress relief and more. The OP Resilience Squad, where members provide peer-to-peer support, was launched, as was the OP Caregiver Support Group.

Similarly, Melissa Moyer, Nutrition Counselor, adapted her wellness groups to the virtual world. Fitness classes became videos that groups watched together, following along at home. Opportunity Project teamed with the SPIRIT Club to connect with its online database of inclusive fitness classes. Healthy cooking classes were livestreamed from the Clubhouse.

In individual and group sessions, members discussed ways to overcome limitations related to their brain injury that hinder them from meeting their health and wellness goals.

Now, as COVID-19 health protocols permit, the Opportunity Project Clubhouse has transitioned to a hybrid model, with limited in-person activities. Counselors say, however, that a virtual component is here to stay.

“Sometimes members had transportation barriers to coming to our in-person programs,” Moyer says. “Others struggled with the amount of preparation it takes to get out of the house. The fact that they can participate from their living rooms has been a great thing for them.”

“We’ve evolved and been able to keep providing positive support,” says Marino Rizzi. “Our members are continuing to make progress!”

Children’s Specialized Hospital partners with Opportunity Project to ensure that children in its brain injury programs can continue to have the support they need throughout adulthood.

At Children’s Specialized Hospital, we provide world-class care for children and young adults who face special health challenges across the state of New Jersey and beyond. We treat everything from chronic illnesses and complex physical disabilities, like brain and spinal cord injuries, to a full scope of developmental, behavioral and mental health concerns. We have convenient locations throughout the state: Bayonne, Clifton, East Brunswick, Egg Harbor Township, Hamilton, Jersey City, Monmouth, New Brunswick, Newark, Somerset, Toms River, Union and West Orange.

To learn more, visit Opportunity Project's page on our site. For more information about Children’s Specialized Hospital, call 888-244-5373.