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Resources Supporting Students with Special Needs

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Learning Continues

This document was prepared to assist school teams who are supporting remote learning for students with special needs during the suspension of classroom instruction.

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 as they adjust to remote learning, 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

Families First – Health, Mental Health, and Well-Being are Priorities

  • 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 (). 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

  • Confirm that families are able to be well, safe, and happy.
  • Provide meaningful and reasonable connections and expectations so that there are 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. See this list of suggested mental health resources (), as well as the contact information for the Youth Quaranteen Support Line ().
  • Shared Health Manitoba has posted a COVID-19 bulletin (). providing information on child and adolescent mental health services and youth addiction services provided through the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre (MATC).

Children in Care

  • 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 brochure ().
  • Meet as soon as possible with schools to review student-specific plans and with Child and Family Services agencies to review case plans.

Student-Specific Planning

  • Discuss with family how implementing the goals in the student-specific plans may be shifted into the home environment. Keep learning simple and accessible. Provide baseline achievement functioning from the most recent student-specific plan and report on progress in June.
  • Recognize that the level of support/intervention may increase for some students in the context of remote learning and physical distancing.
  • Provide devices and training when required for some families to support the learning and use of technology and materials.

Clinical and Counselling Support

  • Prioritize clinician caseloads in collaboration with school teams and case managers. See considerations for school clinicians (). Also, review the Canadian Centre for Child Protection guidelines 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 ().
  • Allow for school guidance and counselling services to remain available to all students to enhance and promote learning.

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, 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 (). 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 wraparound plans to meet their new living/learning context and hold virtual systems meetings to coordinate and integrate supports as much as possible.

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 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. Consultants will share the Guide for Teachers Working with Students Who Are Hard of Hearing () 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, BVI consultants will contact case managers to determine the best way to communicate with the family and discuss required alternate format materials and equipment. BVI consultants will share the Guide for Teachers Working with Students with Low Vision () 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 () and Part 2 () 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 Allan Hawkins, Director, Inclusion Support Branch, K–12 Division, Manitoba Education, 204-945-7911.

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