A mother in Moose Jaw, Sask., is grateful for a program helping her son to keep up and not fall behind in school.
Kathryn Blondeau said over the last few years she has been concerned about Ewan’s readiness for school.
“He just has some challenges with meeting developmental milestones that other kids his age, in the same peer group, have,” she said on Thursday.
“One of the bigger ones is language. It took him a long time to get going with that and he’s still behind in regards to that. Both with his own speaking as well as his level of understanding.”
The Early Learning Intensive Support (ELIS) program has given her hope that his challenges won’t limit his success.
The program is for pre-kindergarten children who have significant developmental delay and require intensive support to meet their potential. This may include children with visual impairments, who are deaf or hard of hearing, have autism spectrum disorder, or complex medical needs.
“(ELIS) has provided opportunities for him to get extra supports within pre-K. He also has some goals set out,” Blondeau said.
“He basically has some focus on developing his social skills and his independence as well so he’s got a couple goals that are directly related to those that the school team is working on and have designated as important for him.”
She said the ELIS team provides her with daily recordings of how Ewan’s doing at school.
“One of his challenges in the past has been he hasn’t been able to communicate what went on earlier in a day,” she said.
“When he used to go to daycare, I never really knew unless I talked to the daycare worker about what he did because he wasn’t able to share that information. So it’s just allowing us, at home, to talk about things a little bit more with him.”
École Palliser Heights School in Moose Jaw is one of 20 schools across the province offering the pilot program for the first time this year. The pilot provides funding for school divisions to create new spaces in existing pre-kindergarten programs for children with intensive needs.
Prairie South School Division director of education Tony Baldwin said if not for this program, they would have children who would not be able to attend school.
“We were applying for pre-K regardless but I mean, hopefully, he would have gotten a spot. I don’t know though if he would have gotten one of those spots otherwise. We would have applied for it, he just wouldn’t have been getting the individualized attention that he’s getting now,” Blondeau said.
“At this point, I think that this is really good. He’s getting extra support as well from a speech-language pathologist so that’s a bonus.”
“I think just the social experience of being with the other kids and learning the routine … to hopefully get a head start so that when he starts kindergarten next year he won’t be behind everybody else.”
The ELIS program has been available in Saskatoon and Regina since 2018 and expanded to Prince Albert, Swift Current, North Battleford, Yorkton and Moose Jaw earlier this year. There are currently 166 pre-kindergarten spaces available for children with unique needs province-wide.
The Canada-Saskatchewan Early Learning and Child Care Agreement is providing over $2 million for the program. Funding allows school divisions to provide additional supports, which includes hiring more educational assistants and bringing in specialized resources.