Via Services is a private, independent non-profit that has been dedicated to helping individuals with disabilities and special needs achieve greater self-sufficiency and lead richer lives since 1945.
The Via Vanguard
Issue 12 - July 2020
In This Issue:


Dear Families, Friends and Supporters of Via Services:

As we enter a fourth month of the historic Covid-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place order, we here at Via Services remain healthy, productive, and optimistic about the future. We hope you are doing the same while finding creative ways to enjoy the summer. We also hope that our regular posts on our Facebook page of lesson plans, motivational messages, and interesting articles are helpful.

If there is one overriding sentiment among all Via staff members it is this: We miss you!

With our First Step therapy services being relegated to video conference sessions only, and our beloved Via West summer camps being canceled altogether, we long for the direct contact and engagement with families and clients that defines our mission. All we can do is look forward to when we will be able to resume the programs and services we have all come to know, love, and rely upon.

So when, exactly, will this be? Of course, this is not an easy question to answer. But here is how we are beginning to prepare for that time. First, we have developed a comprehensive health and safety policy for the Via office, which outlines how we will be able to resume in-person therapy appointments safely and effectively for you and our staff. Second, we will be asking First Step families to complete a survey, which seeks feedback on our new policy and measures families' comfort level with in-person sessions.

As for Via West, the answer is even more difficult. Even as shelter-in-place orders and other restrictions are beginning to be lifted, we expect social distancing protocols to be a part of our future for some time. Unfortunately, respite camp sessions offer the opposite of social distancing. We have come to the conclusion that our camps simply cannot be done - both from a safety and financial perspective - in a social distancing model. We believe that we can only conduct camps without these restrictions, or once a vaccine or other forms of effective treatment are developed. At this time, we are anticipating a February 2021 reopening date at the earliest

In the meantime, we are undertaking some new services and initiatives we believe will make Via an even stronger and more valued service provider in the near future. We are putting the final touches on an In-Home Respite (IHR) Program that we think will deliver greater value and benefits than typical IHR services do at this time. You can read more about our proposal here. In addition, our Board of Directors and staff are embarking on a strategic planning process that will help us enhance our current programs, identify potential new services, and create an action plan to achieve our goals. More to come on this as well.

Finally, we are taking this time to address some long-standing billing and accounting issues we have experienced over the past years. If you are owed any credits for past/canceled Via West sessions, or if you have balances due, you will be receiving a call or email to rectify the situation. We respectfully ask for your responsiveness and cooperation with this project as our goal is to begin with a clean slate once Via West sessions return.

Thank you for your continued support of Via Services. And as always, I invite you to contact me directly with any comments, questions, or suggestions at


Matt Bell, Executive Director

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Poker Tournament, Golf Tournament, Fall Festival
Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic and restrictions on gatherings and events, we have made the decision to postpone our 2020 events to the spring of 2021. Our annual Via Ball will take place in late February as per usual, and the Poker Tournament will be held in March. The Fall Festival will now be a Spring Festival that will occur in April, and the Charity Golf Classic will take place in May. We will be sending out more details about these events over the next few months.


In-Home Respite Program
We are so excited to announce that we are currently in the process of developing and receiving approval for a new in-home respite program.

Our proposed in-home respite service will be very different from what you are accustomed to as our enhanced programming will provide plentiful learning opportunities. Throughout the 52-week period, we will offer a wide range of educational units that are age and developmentally appropriate and include science, art, independent living skills, executive functioning, and more. 

There will be a monthly field trip meetup that will provide more social interaction opportunities for your participant. Staff will be trained to work with your participant on skill-building and reaching their IEP and IPP goals.

Via West and Altitude
We are looking forward to seeing everyone again in February 2021 when we expect to resume our respite sessions. We already have so many fun things planned for you including our first ever full Ski Week session! There will be a 2-day, 3-day, 5-day, and even a 9-day option for you to enjoy, and we will be bringing in snow for sledding, play, and more ski fun!

There are amazing themes for you to choose from Dr. Seuss to Disney, Pirates, Amazing Race, and Jungle Cruise for Via West and Maker Faire, Taste of Altitude, and more for Altitude. Our first session will be for Valentine's Day, complete with a visit and welcome back presents from Cupid.

We will be moving from our usual printed and mailed brochure to an electronic one in an effort to reduce costs. Covid-19 permitting, we plan to send this to you by October 1st so that you can register for the spring sessions.

First Step
Our First Step team is continuing to provide virtual therapy services as well as Early Start eligibility assessments using TheraPlatform to video conference.

While we still have not determined when we will be able to resume in-person services, we are working hard on implementing social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, and screening procedures in the office. Please keep an eye out for the survey we will be sending you regarding our new policies and procedures for in-person services.

donor Featured Donors: Mike and Kathi Endris

Mike & Kathi Endris pictured at the 25th Annual Via Ball

Mike and Kathi Endris are longtime donors to Via Services and yearly Entertainment Sponsors for the Via Ball. They donate to all of our programs because they see the value in early intervention with our younger clients and the respite and education that camp provides for all ages. They write that "we chose Via because the people at Via make real life positive changes to their clients and families, and have for generations! All you have to do is make one visit to Via West or talk to one family who is receiving services to know that Via makes a huge positive difference in clients' lives."

Mike and Kathi are both very family oriented and they help their community, family, and friends in any way that they can. They are avid travelers who have been to 55 countries of the world.

Thank you Mike and Kathi for being such valued supporters of Via! You are the reason we are able to do what we do for the thousands of families that we serve each year!

Please click here to become a Via supporter!

Featured Employee: Leslie Davis
Leslie is the Vice President of Via. She currently oversees all fundraising, events, and facility rental contracts, but she has a long history with Via Services. Leslie joined Via in 2011 as the Director of Via West before becoming the Vice President of Programs in 2012. In 2014, she accepted the role of Chief Executive Officer. In 2018, she decided to take a step back to spend more time with her growing family and transitioned into her current role.

Matt Bell, Executive Director, believes that Leslie's impact on Via Services over the past decade is difficult to overstate. He says "her unique combination of passion, knowledge, expertise, and unparalleled work ethic - and willingness to serve in various roles - are a major part of our success." He continues that "simply stated, Leslie is the heart and soul of the organization and I am both honored and fortunate to work alongside her."

Leslie received her B.A. in Spanish from Santa Clara University and her M.A. in Special Education and Rehabilitative Counseling from San Jose State University. She  has extensive experience working with the special needs population. She worked as the special education manager at Rocketship Schools, an organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap of low income students. She also owned a private counseling practice in San Jose dedicated to vocational rehabilitation and transition counseling for those with special needs and those with work-related injuries.

Leslie is incredibly passionate about the families that Via serves saying "they are the reason I am here. Working with our families and seeing the difference that we can make in so many lives is just incredible."

Outside of Via, Leslie loves sports (no Bay Area team is excluded) and spending time with her husband and five children.


Please help me figure out how to get my toddler to pay attention and participate in her virtual therapy! - Lauren W.
Answered by Jennifer Fischer, M.S., CF-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist, Via Services

Teletherapy has become the status quo during this time, and it certainly can be an adjustment for kids of all ages. If you are looking for some ways to make these sessions easier, here are a few pointers:

Start by designating a consistent spot in your house that is quiet, organized, and free of distractions (ex. TV, iPad, excess toys) for your child to work in. For younger kids, they may be more comfortable and willing to participate while sitting on the floor and having their own toys incorporated into their session. Another suggestion is to think about the roles you and other family members may play in your child's session. For some children, including siblings in the session can be a great motivator, while for others it may be a distraction. If you feel siblings are a distraction, try creating this time for them to engage  in their own activity or setting "quiet time" while your child is in their session. 

You, as the parent, play an important role in teletherapy. Sitting with your child and providing redirection when needed is a great way to help your child attend. Collaborate with your child's therapist each session. Have open discussions about what went well during the session, what was difficult for your child, and what could be changed for the next session. Lastly, make it fun for them! Before each session, help your child pick an exciting toy for them to share with their therapist and provide your child's therapist with information about what your child enjoys. This will help your therapist use content that your child can relate to! 

Have patience, don't be afraid to try different things, and have fun!

Is there any way to help my son (he has sensory processing disorder) wear a mask? We want to prepare him now in case he is required to wear one when his day program starts again.
Answered by Leslie Davis, M.A., Vice President (and former Via West Director), Via Services

We know how scary and difficult these uncertain times are for everyone, especially children and adults with sensory issues and special needs. Wearing a mask, in particular, can be a huge challenge to those sensitive to touch and smell. Here are some tips to help your child get used to the sensation of wearing a mask:

  • Use social stories and pictures to explain what the mask is, why it's important to wear it, and what your child can expect in situations where a mask is needed.
  • Let your child become familiar with the mask by holding it, touching it, bringing it near to his/her face.
  • Demonstrate how to wear the mask through play. Use a toy or stuffed animal to show how to put on a mask. You can also play games together that require the use of a mask - doctor, vet, firefighter, etc.
  • Practice wearing the mask for short durations, with breaks, and build upwards from there.  
  • If your child is able, allow him/her to chew gum or suck on a piece of candy to help with the issue of smell underneath the mask. This can also provide a great distraction.
  • Practice wearing the mask outside the home, but start small with quick outings in calm, low key environments.
  • Use positive reinforcement and a reward system. Rewards can be edible, social rewards, activity rewards, material rewards, or even privileges. You can try a chart or token or star system.
Make sure to stay calm and patient. Do not try to force it, but always offer plenty of encouragement. 

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