Column: Minister Rabain On ASD Programme

August 21, 2019

Diallo Rabain Bermuda Aug 2019[Opinion column written by Minister of Education Diallo Rabain]

Education is not only the foundation for success in people’s lives; it is also something that enhances people’s 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 [BPSS] 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 [ASD] 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 pre-school level with a specially designed and resourced ASD pre-school 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, middle and high school levels.

The Department of Education has made it possible for a specialised classroom to be opened and resourced for the ASD programme to be held at Prospect Pre-School. It will not only offer specialised early intervention and support for students on the ASD spectrum but include students who may have similar support needs. With a 1:2 teacher-student ratio, the programme itself will provide focus on the social and emotional elements of development, while at the same time utilising the same pre-school curriculum that is taught in other schools according to the child’s level of functioning. These pre-schoolers will also be provided 1:1 support as well as access to the pre-school classrooms through inclusion.

Up until 2014, children could not be diagnosed in Bermuda. Through a partnership between the Department of Education through the Child Development Programme, the Bermuda Hospitals Board, and Bermuda Autism Support and Education [BASE], training was provided to ensure that this much-needed testing was brought to Bermuda. Now, children as young as two years old 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 Department of Education will take part in a two-day training session. The Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support [SCERTS] training “is a comprehensive, evidence-based framework that enables service providers to assess an individual child’s needs and develop an Individual Education Plan [IEP] 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 currently 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 Department of Education states of the programme and training, “It is not about putting on 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 currently 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 Department of Education can provide the best possible 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 Department of Education staff that need training and support. Parents will also benefit from training to support their children through a partnership with BASE and the Department of Education. This family and professional information and training session on Fostering a Child’s Social Competence will be on 21 August, 2019 at the BUEI from 6 to 8 pm.

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 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.

- Minister Diallo Rabain


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