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Resources Supporting Students with Special Needs and Students at Risk

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Note: Given the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and transmission within our communities, guidance my change based on emerging circumstances and information from public health officials.

Learning Continues

This document was prepared to assist school teams who are supporting remote learning for students with special needs and students at risk.

It includes recommendations for maintaining contact among students, their parents/caregivers, and their direct service providers, and for ensuring students have continued access to appropriate educational programming and social/emotional/behavioural supports.

It also includes links to useful tips and resources for supporting students with special needs and students at risk, as well as suggestions for implementing adaptations and modifications to curriculum and individualized programs.

There are more links to important information on the ethical and implementation guidelines for providing clinical services through distance delivery, as well as information on potential loan sources for augmentative/alternative communication devices and alternate format materials.

Finally, there are useful resources created by Louis Riel School Division about providing student-specific supports during the suspension of classroom learning, as well as Manitoba Education contact information for additional support, resources, and guidance.

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Planning Principles

  • Welcoming Our Students Back: Restoring Safe Schools: COVID-19 K–12 School Settings Practice Guidance and Protocols ( 400 KB) highlights key guiding principles, including safety, health, and well-being for all students, staff, and families as a priority.
  • Keep communication and collaboration at the forefront. Reach out to all parents and maintain regular and ongoing communication with families. Ask for parents’ input on what supports and resources are required to facilitate ongoing learning experiences. Seek genuine, authentic information that is based on the reality of the home situation. Share the link to the My Learning at Home Parent/Caregiver Portal.
  • Use a case manager or designate as a go-to person to coordinate services. See (considerations and suggestions for case managers ( 261 KB). School team planning will determine roles/responsibilities and prevent parents and students from being overwhelmed by multiple contacts from various support staff. Consider choosing the go-to person based on essential learning, priorities, or existing relationships.
  • Encourage the family to develop a simple routine that would be easy to implement and manage.

Mental Health Supports

  • Support families to be safe and well. Provide school counselling and divisional clinical supports as needed to support student mental health. Staff, students, parents, and caregivers can access, utilize and share tips and resources in support of their own mental health or in support of others. These tips and resources are available under Well-Being and Mental Health Tips and Resources for Students, Families, Educators, and Others.
  • Provide meaningful connections and reasonable expectations that provide positive learning opportunities.
  • Verify that resources, services, and activities for mental health and well-being are made accessible in the context of remote learning and physical distancing. Assist with connections to outside resources as needed.
  • Shared Health Manitoba has posted a COVID-19 bulletin ( 533 KB). providing information on child and adolescent mental health services and youth addiction services provided through the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre (MATC).

Children in Care

  • Meet as soon as possible with schools to review student-specific plans, and with Child and Family Services agencies to review case plans.
  • Clarify key contacts in school divisions and in foster families to establish how communication will occur for learning.
  • Ensure that children in care have access to devices and materials to continue their learning. See Assistive Technology for Learning brochure ( 96 KB).

Student-Specific Planning

  • Parents/caregivers, teachers, and the students themselves, where appropriate, are encouraged to discuss the impact of spring 2020 remote learning on student-specific plans and develop collaborative ways to support learning and confidence during this time of transition. As always, goals, strategies, and timelines outlined in the student-specific plan will be based on the student’s current level of performance and will be adjusted to meet current needs and contexts.
  • The standards outlined in Appropriate Educational Programming in Manitoba: Standards for Student Services ( 129 KB) and school division policy will continue to be followed, along with guidelines related to COVID-19.
  • Programming for students with special needs and students at risk is a dynamic, interactive process that requires problem solving, teamwork, and trust among educators, students, and parents.

Clinical and Counselling Support

  • Allow for school guidance and counselling services to remain available to all students to enhance and promote learning.
  • Prioritize clinician caseloads in collaboration with school teams and case managers. See considerations for school clinicians ( 231 KB). Also, review the Canadian Centre for Child Protection guidelines ( 56 KB) for maintaining professional boundaries during remote learning.
  • Clinical supports are provided by professionals who are following ethical professional practice guidelines, including ensuring informed consent for the use of school division–approved and security-enhanced technology platforms, devices, and programs. Clinicians should consult with their professional college () practice guidelines for working remotely. See this sample of an authorization waiver form ( 19 KB).

Students with Complex Needs

  • Identify students who have complex needs and establish regular contact with families. Some examples of complex needs include students who need interdepartmental/agency supports (including Wraparound Protocol), students with profound neurodevelopmental disorders, or students who have co-occurring disorders.
  • Considerations for school teams can be found in the Manitoba Education recommendations for students with complex needs ( 187 KB). Confirm that students have devices, materials, and the resources they need to learn and communicate.
  • Recognize that the level of support may increase for some students during this time. Adjust plans to meet our new living/learning context. Hold regular systems meetings to coordinate and integrate supports (e.g., school, divisional, outside agencies) as much as possible. This may mean some members of the student’s support team attend virtually.

Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and/or Students with Low Vision

  • With regard to remote learning for American Sign Language (ASL) learners and students who are hard of hearing, Manitoba Education Deaf/Hard of Hearing (DHH) consultants will first connect with the case manager to determine the best way to communicate with the family and discuss learning packages required for ASL learners. DHH consultants will share the Guide for Teachers Working with Students Who Are Hard of Hearing ( 196 KB) and identify key considerations for each student who is hard of hearing. Consultants will provide consultation notes to the case manager.
  • With regard to remote learning for students who are Blind/Visually Impaired (BVI) and using braille and assistive technology, Manitoba Education Blind/Visually Impaired (BVI) consultants will contact case managers to determine the best way to communicate with the family and discuss required alternate format materials and assistive technology. BVI consultants will share the Guide for Teachers Working with Students with Low Vision ( 199 KB) and identify key considerations for each student who has low vision. Consultants will provide consultation notes to the case manager.
  • Alternate Formats Collection: Production of alternate format materials will continue as usual and will be delivered to the student’s home. Public Health has stated that this is acceptable with proper handwashing, as advised for those handling paper products. The Assistive Technology Lending Library can be a consideration for supports for communication and other learning devices on a case-by-case basis, and it can assist with developing low-tech supports.

School divisions may also find these PowerPoint presentations, Part 1 ( 197 KB) and Part 2 ( 661 KB), to be useful in communicating division-wide with student services teams about the continuance of learning in remote settings. They were developed and are being shared by the Louis Riel School Division.

If you have any questions about the content of this document, please feel free to contact or 204-945-7907.

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