Since 1996, PSI has held a presence in the Portland metro area. For over 20 years, with support from multiple grants, the Portland team has worked to develop, deliver, and evaluate prevention and intervention programs that benefit families, youth, and schools in Portland and across the state.
With two decades of experience working at a distance from colleagues in Eugene, PSI-Portland was well equipped to take on the challenges 2020 brought. When stay-at-home orders went into place, the ingenuity of the Portland team was called upon and technological adaptations were swiftly and adeptly implemented. As a result, the Portland office has seen staggering success in not only maintaining its connection to the metro area, but in increasing participant engagement and developing novel and effective methods for assessment and intervention delivery.
As an example, at the time Governor Brown closed schools in Oregon, the Portland team was implementing a 16-week parent group for the PRO-Parenting project, a multi-site study funded by NICHD led by Laura Lee McIntyre. This project targeted family-centered interventions for parents with young children with developmental delay. Instead of choosing to end the group, they recognized an opportunity to deliver the same content via video conferencing software. The team adapted the assessments from in-person interviews and observations, to Qualtrics surveys, paper surveys, phone interviews, and observation tasks conducted via video conferencing.
Through this adaptation, families continued to receive support at a time when many programs and supports ceased. In addition, the PRO-Parenting project also benefitted by using the current participants as the first cohort of online delivery of the intervention, an approach we will continue to use post-COVID. Although we invested significant time in getting the intervention online, we learned that we were able to engage with our study participants and ultimately retain more of them in the overall study.
The Portland team is also seizing the opportunity to learn more about what families are experiencing during this global pandemic. Through parent interviews, staff are collecting data on families’ experiences during the stay-at-home orders, the impact of the shutdown on their child’s services, and any positive aspects that may have come out of this crisis. With these data, PSI hopes to utilize the information to promote public policy that better supports children with disabilities during this pandemic and future crises.
While this may seem like an extraordinary response to our “new normal,” this theme of adaptation is repeated countless times across projects, scientists, students, grants, and administration throughout the entire PSI.