Workshop shares education-based advocacy tips

By Kathy Gallant
February 8, 2018 - 11:38am Updated: February 8, 2018 - 2:38pm

A mix of Meadow Lakers are now better equipped on how to advocate for children with intensive needs in the school system.

A workshop hosted by the Saskatchewan Association of Community Living featured leaders in the field of education, occupational therapy and advocacy, and broke the information into real-life scenarios. Parents, educators and school board employees were among the attendees which took place the evening of Wednesday, Feb. 7.

While the session’s main focus was intended for children with intensive needs, ranging from students with intellectual disabilities to accessibility-based needs and everything in between, the session went through a six-step approach to youth-based advocacy.

Legislation, from the Saskatchewan Education Act right up to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, was a large component of the talk.

The group also discussed tactics to advocate for youth, such as identifying who can help, setting goals and sharing successes.

Elaine Caswell, a lifelong educator who has been a teacher, superintendent and government advisor in her career spoke about the importance of knowing the ins and outs of legislation and how it can help parents speak up for their children in a constructive manner.

“I believe having parents have an opportunity to come in and learn key components and documents of the education system strengthens their knowledge and puts people on the same playing field,” she said. “I’m passionate about parents and them having the tools in order to navigate the system.”

Louise Burridge, a Regina-based occupational therapist, also led part of the talk. She said advocacy is an important problem-solving skill at both an individual and community level.

“Through advocacy, we get closer to our ideals,” she said. “If we are going to enact some change, it really is bringing together a community and different perspectives to help make those changes.”

Shaylee Balfour from Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth, also spoke about the agency’s services, supports, and protections for young people.

Bluesette Campbell, a local parent and member of Parents Advocating for Children with Exceptionalities (PACE) was pleased with the turnout and said she learned from the session.

“Getting as many voices as possible was important,” she said. “To have the experience from a ministry level, a therapy level, and when it comes down to it, the children’s advocate, there’s very few gaps for parents to fall into.”

She was pleased to see a number of local educators in attendance. She said she feels Northwest School Division is very supportive of inclusive education.

“We have a great relationship,” Campbell said. “I found it extremely encouraging that we had so many staff of our division and early years educators here. It’s really convenient we’re all armed with the same information.”


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