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Proactive planning helps Regis Autism Center continue services during COVID-19

By Kristen Walsh


When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, Brianna Dwyer, MS, BCBA, LABA, clinical director at the Regis Autism Center, didn’t wait to start planning for a possible statewide shutdown amid new and emerging state and national public health guidelines. She was on the phone with health insurance companies getting preapproval for telehealth sessions for clients. She put together assignment binders to send home with parents. She met with the Regis graduate students who worked directly with clients. 

“I knew that I had to be pro-active in order to minimize a lapse in service and also follow strict safety guidelines,” Dwyer recalls. The Autism Center at Regis works in collaboration with the Regis Children’s Center and provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for young children along with the potential for integration with their peers. Dwyer knew that a disruption in the routine could cause setbacks for clients.

When Massachusetts did mandate a statewide shutdown on March 23, Dwyer says it was just two weeks later that the Autism Center began providing telehealth services. “Since we had preapproval from the insurance companies, we were able to hit the ground running.”

Parents were ready to go, binders in hand. Graduate students were trained remotely and had accessed online activities to keep their clients engaged. And the remote sessions began.

“We had to figure out ways to keep our very young clients engaged with us over a screen while teaching caregivers how to implement our teaching procedures,” Julia Rose, ABA ’20 recalls of pivoting to telehealth sessions. “We worked on learning skills through play just like we do at the center. We read books, watched videos, played games, and interspersed learning opportunities throughout.”

Rose adds that she is grateful for the resources that so many companies made free and available for teachers during the pandemic. “I spent a lot of time on the PBS Kids game page and a digital library website called Epic.”



On May 18, the Autism Center reopened following a detailed re-opening plan developed by Dwyer with guidance from Dean of the School of Health Sciences Laura Burke, ScD, MPH, and staff members from Regis Community Health Services, as well as public health guidelines. The transition to in-person sessions was gradual and included specific room assignments, personal protective equipment, and disinfection procedures.

Dwyer, who would typically be in an adjoining office during normal operation, is virtually present during each session. She is quick to credit the success of telehealth and the transition back to campus as a collaborative effort.

“I applaud the graduate students; they were the ones who did not allow for the lapse in service for children with autism,” she says, adding that parents have been on board from the get-go. “I love seeing the growth of the children; they seem to learn something new every minute.”

That’s the reason that Rose decided to pursue an ABA graduate degree. 

“While working as a behavior therapist in home services, I had already seen the incredible progress my clients made and the effect the application of this science had on the individuals we worked with and their families,” she says. After completing the ABA master’s program at Regis in May and passing the licensing exam to become a board-certified behavior analyst, Rose started working at Boston Behavior Learning Centers in Newton, Massachusetts. “This field is a very cool combination of science and helping people and I enjoy figuring out how to teach in a method that is best suited to the individual learner and seeing the incredible progress each child makes in the time we have to work with them.” 


In July 2020, Regis announced two strategic partnerships with organizations aimed at helping children with autism reach their full potential. Employees at Trumpet Behavioral Health and The New England Center for Children can apply to receive a preferred-tuition reduction for eligible Regis graduate, doctoral, and certificate programs, including the Applied Behavior Analysis program. Additional benefits include free job, internship, and field placement postings to Regis’ CareerLink website accessed by students and alumni, and access to interviewing, recruiting, and employer information resources. 


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