This year, we all faced many challenges and hurdles. This is all the more reason to reflect upon the many achievements our team has accomplished this year. I am proud to be part of such an excellent team of professionals. As the Autism and Applied Behaviour Analysis Lead for the Ottawa Catholic School Board, it brings me great joy to share #ocsb5things we celebrate in supporting students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
1. We are a team that sharpens one another! I am very fortunate to be part of an interdisciplinary team of teachers, educational assistants, behaviour analysts, behaviour consultants, addiction counsellors, speech-language pathologists, social workers and psychologists. We collaborate with our school colleagues with the ultimate goal of creating effective and positive learning experiences for students with ASD. We learn a lot from each other, which in turn helps us build better learning experiences for the staff we work with and shape our skills as clinicians and teachers. Our diverse perspectives, strengths and expertise is our strength, and in the end, it all comes together to support students.
2. We found creative ways to improve understanding and awareness. A large part of our role is to provide professional learning to staff who work with students with ASD. Geographic challenges and physical distancing did not stop us from meeting our goals this year in improving understanding and awareness of ways to support students. We offered virtual professional learning for educators on topics related to inclusive education and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Our Behaviour Analysts came up with creative ways to meet the needs of educators through our ABA Google + Community and monthly live webinars to teach social or communication skills. It was encouraging to see staff readily and enthusiastically participating (in large numbers!) in all that was offered regarding ABA this year.
3. We put students first. One of the areas that bring great satisfaction is our direct work #2with students on the spectrum. We facilitate excellent social skills and communication programs for students. For elementary students, we oversee an after-school social skills program called CREW (Communication, Relationships, Empathy, Wellness). In some of our high schools, we co-facilitate the PEERS® program with teachers from the school. The impact these programs have on our students’ lives is nothing short of inspiring, and I am honoured to be involved in helping these programs come to life.
4. We ran our first #ocsbABA conference! One of the most significant initiatives we put together this year was an Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) conference for all educators in our board, ABA In Your Classroom. At the last minute, we needed to turn a two-day in-person conference into a month-long virtual conference in May, and we did it in flying colours. We brought together teachers, EAs, ECEs, principals, clinical staff, and other school board staff to learn about ASD and ABA from internationally recognized experts in the field. We were then able to share some of these presentations with our parent community through the Catholic School Parents’ Association.
5. We continue to collaborate and innovate. I am really proud of my colleagues in how we collaborated on several initiatives throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We put together a six-part course for high school students enrolled in a Specialist High Skills Majors Course Psychology of Behaviour: Applied Behaviour Analysis. We also developed five short videos for parents on ABA In Your Home. Despite schools being closed, my team and I were able to continue supporting the schools and families we work with through collaboration.
Every day, I am humbled by my colleagues, students, and the families I work with. I am honoured to be in this position and am very proud of my teammates this year. We have a lot to celebrate. What is on your #ocsb5things list? Share five things to celebrate from this school year on social media using the hashtag #ocsb5things!