In the Interdivisional Program for Students with Autism (IPSA) at Nelson McIntyre Collegiate, the move to remote learning required flexibility and compassion. Students in the program rely on one-on-one support, regular contact with school-based clinicians, consistency and access to music therapy and other divisional programming.
Replicating the IPSA classroom at home was never the goal. Instead, Matthew Steingart, the Student Services Teacher who heads the program at Nelson McIntyre Collegiate, connected with his team and collaborated with students, parents and guardians to create a learning plan that would work for everyone.
“When classes were suspended, we weren't sure how to maintain our relationships and routines with the students,” said Steingart. “Consulting with our Clinical Services Team, we decided to try out video-conferencing.”
Students were sent home with essential learning resources and computer equipment. Staff were given tutorials on how to use Microsoft Teams software that would allow them to communicate with students remotely.
“Responses have been very positive so far,” said Steingart. “The students look forward to the experience and are engaged for the entire class. At the end of each session, we discuss new ideas and how to implement more communication and academics into the sessions as we make the most of this new reality.”
One of the aspects of the IPSA that has stayed constant is the musical performances by Jennifer Braun, Developmental Music Teacher. Students join by listening, singing, and even acting and dancing along to the music.
“Jenn really is the star of the show,” said Megan Appleton, Occupational Therapist. “The students are so happy to hear her familiar songs.”
Appleton works alongside Braun as well as Lynne Bailey, Speech Language Pathologist, Jessica Robertson, School Psychologist and a team of educational assistants to develop new strategies and resources for students.
“During a time when social distancing may make us feel further apart, the IPSA program continues to encourage all members to stay connected while taking into consideration the mental health and well-being of all,” said Appleton. “Overall, the adaptability of the students attending these online meetings deserves great applause. Their flexibility to attend and actively participate in such a novel learning format is perhaps the greatest accomplishment of all.”