Responding to the needs of all of our students
Education is not only the foundation for success in people’s lives, but it is also something that enhances lives.
Every child should have access to a high-quality education, so that they may live their life to the fullest extent.
The Bermuda public school system is a comprehensive education system, charged with educating every child in Bermuda, regardless of ability or disability.
The Department of Education has made necessary provisions to provide specialised classes for students who have hearing loss, sight impairments and are on the autism spectrum disorder scale.
As we continue, in this article series, to focus on our work to transform the BPSS, we focus on the changes we are making to improve the educational experience for students who learn and function differently, from other students.
One of the upcoming changes we are making is to introduce an autism spectrum disorder programme at the preschool level, with a specially designed and resourced, ASD preschool classroom.
This programme will close the gap in our ASD programme offerings, between the child development programme and primary school, as we have ASD programmes at the primary school, middle school and high school levels.
The DoE has made it possible for a specialised classroom to be opened and resourced for the ASD programme to be held at Prospect Preschool. It will not only offer specialised early intervention and support for students on the ASD spectrum, but also include students who may have similar support needs.
With a 1:2 teacher-student ratio, the programme will focus on the social and emotional elements of development, while using the same preschool curriculum that is taught in other schools according to the child’s level of functioning.
These preschoolers will also be provided 1:1 support, as well as access to the preschool classrooms through inclusion. Up until 2014, an ASD diagnosis was not possible for children in Bermuda.
Through a partnership between the DoE through the child development programme, the Bermuda Hospitals Board and Bermuda Autism Support and Education, training was provided to ensure that this much needed testing was brought to Bermuda.
Now, children as young as 2, can be tested for ASD through the child development programme, using a multidisciplinary team, including the Department of Health specialist.
This week, teachers, learning support teachers and others in the DoE will take part in a two-day training session.
The Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support training “is a comprehensive, evidence-based framework that enables service providers to assess an individual child’s needs and develop an individual education plan, based on objectives that are most predictive of developmental shifts and positive outcomes”.
The Scerts training supports the existing multi-tiered support system that is used in the BPSS.
Scerts has been identified as best practice for students using evidence-based models and will be more intensive, more inclusive and more individualised than in the past.
Sherri Bucci, the assistant director of early childhood within the DoE, said of the programme and training: “It is not about putting a label on a child, but it is about addressing individual needs.”
To provide these individual needs, an integrated team approach for students involving DoE staff, educational therapists, student services, ASD learning support teachers, school psychologists and paraeducators is required.
This integrated approach also includes working with local partners who are experts in this field and who work with these same students, such as Tomorrow’s Voices and Base.
These organisations recognise and support the efforts of the ministry to ensure that the DoE can provide the best learning experience possible, that is in tandem with the work they do.
A lot of effort goes into running an ASD programme. A lot of effort goes into raising a child on the autism spectrum.
We recognise it is not just DoE staff that need training and support. Parents will also benefit from training to support their children through a partnership with Base and the DoE.
This family and professional information/training session on “Fostering a Child’s Social Competence” will be held today, at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute, from 6pm to 8pm.
I applaud the time and work that is going in to ensure that our most vulnerable students, and their caregivers, are provided with the tools they need to be successful, and to reach their full potential.
I am grateful to our local partners, who have agreed to help us in transforming our education system to respond to the needs of all our students.
• Diallo Rabain is the Minister of Education and the government MP for Devonshire North Central (Constituency 13)
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