Thank you to Elize Janse van Rensburg for sharing your thoughts with us today! Elize is the vice chairperson of SAISI, lecturer on SASIC3, owner of a a private practice in Bloemfontein as well as co-founder of Built to Bloom.
The year 2020 has been a year of many firsts for SAISI – from supporting members through lockdown regulations, hosting webinars and taking the first steps in telehealth in occupational therapy/sensory integration in South Africa, to hosting the very first online treatment course. If there is one thing that this year has taught us, it is that where there is a will, there is a way! And a will there was to make SASIC4 happen despite the unpredictability that has become part of our daily realities.
Preparations for the first online treatment course started months ahead of time and the team put in a formidable effort. Preparations started with ensuring that SAISI’s courses would still align with the standards set by the International Council for Education in Ayres Sensory Integration (ICEASI) in an online teaching format. While ICEASI’s standards require face-to-face contact for treatment courses, some of the requirements were altered amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic. Additional mentorship was added, and all course participants will attend at least three hours of face-to-face mentoring with an ASI® trained therapist following the course.
The SASIC4 lecturing team worked tirelessly to review and revise lecturing material under the leadership of Carina Taylor. Since treatment demonstrations could not be done “live”, the wealth of treatment videos collected during SASIC4 courses over the last few years provided invaluable learning opportunities. Marié Greyling must be saluted for the hours, days, weeks, months of work that she put into reviewing, selecting and editing videos for the online course. These have made all the difference and was evident in the feedback received from participants. In the words of one participant: “Using pre-recorded videos was an absolute plus as we could revisit sessions and learn factors or reasoning as they paused and spoke over them.”
Preparations for the course also included sending physical course packs to participants consisting of course notes, worksheets for practical sessions, some treats from SAISI, and lovely gifts from various “virtual exhibitors”.
The lecturing team consisted of Annamarie van Jaarsveld as course leader, and Marié Greyling as co-lecturer. Learning from these two masters of the science was captivating and inspiring! Elize Janse van Rensburg supported the team as course coordinator, seeing to the technical aspects and ensuring that the lecturers were well nourished and hydrated at all times. And, as always, Aletta Kietzman was keeping it all together in the background, surprising the team and participants with a beautiful personalised landing page each morning with memories captured from the previous day.
Participants and lecturers alike were apprehensive about the online environment, internet connectivity problems, load shedding issues, and all the “tech gremlins” that could potentially hamper the course. However, the “tech gremlins” (mostly) stayed away, and there were only minor glitches with quick recovery time and no significant impact on the course itself – for which all parties involved were very grateful. But as the COVID-19 saying goes… “Zoom fatigue is real”! For more than forty peadiatric occupational therapists, who are collectively much more comfortable crawling around on munch mats or cocooning in a spandex swing, spending almost forty hours in front of a screen in one week was quite a challenge – physically and mentally (this also goes for the lecturing team!). On the other hand, for many being in the comfort of their own homes was a big advantage that aided in combating the “con’s” of the online course format.
The lecturing team worked together from Annamarie’s beautiful home in Bloemfontein. Visits from the local wildlife was a daily occurrence, and the “lecturing Zoom room” was one with a view which definitely helped to combat the Zoom fatigue. A big thank you to Annamarie for availing her house for the week. The lecturing team’s favourite session, however, was when they got to ‘play’ during the equipment practical on the Thursday afternoon. In the absence of children to demonstrate object affordances, Marié and Annamarie played their hearts out to make up for it. From hanging on to the bottom of a bolster swing, to playing with a “bilateral stocking bat”, it was indeed fun!
Feedback from the course was overwhelmingly positive and while many participants would have preferred a face-to-face course, the online format undoubtedly allowed for rich learning experiences. We take many lessons from this experience going forward, and we know that these lessons will help in SAISI’s continuous striving to doing it better every time!