The Case for AIM

Foster Inclusion

More than just inclusive classrooms, a societal attitude of respect and appreciation of diversity is extremely important for inclusion to be a reality. We do want children with Down syndrome included in regular classrooms, that is absolutely necessary. But it is also necessary to give them the skills to be successful in an inclusive setting. Developing social relationships and deep connections with peers requires mutual communication, so it is imperative that children with Down syndrome are given the best opportunity to develop their communication skills and confidence. The AIM Program offers an approach that nurtures independence and interdependence by providing opportunities that promote the development of personal empowerment and self-determination, essential for successful inclusion.

The AIM Program is an inclusive program. It provides the resources, adaptive tools and opportunities for students to work on their abilities to be successful in their class, community and at home.

Teaching Strategies

Currently within Saskatchewan, there is no "go to" resource for families or professionals with which to consult. Parents, educators, and health care professionals need a strong voice that speaks with confidence about what works for children with Down syndrome.

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Keep Families in Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan families have had limited access to specialized education and professional support services for their children and youth with Down syndrome. Three such families are represented on the founding board of The AIM Program and all three used to travel to Calgary for the services of The PREP Program. However, the cost of travel out of province is a hardship for many families and impossible for others. Rather than once or twice a year, these services needed to be available weekly throughout the school year to maximize their impact. Some families have moved away from Saskatchewan and many more simply do not receive the specialized service that AIM has made available within the province. In Saskatchewan, we have a desire to bring people in to our province, not send them away. The AIM Program looks to help those families who might have otherwise left the province for services offered elsewhere.

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Attract Professionals

Many professional positions are difficult to recruit, including speech therapists. Yet, in our initial planning discussions, our board spoke with three different Saskatchewan speech therapists and one of the first comments each of them made was, "Wow, I would love to work for an organization like that!" Being an expert at something is a desirable quality, and we believe this specialized program will attract high-quality speech therapists and eventually occupational therapists to our province.

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Fill the Gap

This community-based program will be an essential part of the needs-based service delivery model described in the document "Actualizing a Needs Based Model to Support Student Achievement" put out by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education. This document indicates the desire of the Saskatchewan government to have the Ministry of Education working in collaborative partnership with stakeholders, including school divisions, students, human service agencies, and community organizations. The gap that currently exists is within "Intensive Individual Interventions" (refer to the diagram on page 4). While children with Down syndrome in most cases do have the support of an educational assistant, they do not have access to the trained specialists required.

There has never been a better time to create a facility in Saskatchewan where teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists can come together to develop an expertise within their chosen professions. This allows our families to receive the best for their child right here at home. AIM is a solution that ensures children with Down syndrome will have access to the services they require, but cannot be provided by an already stressed health and education system. AIM programming will not duplicate services, but rather our goal is collaboration to fill the gap.

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