For the majority of children, back to school means school supply shopping, early mornings and homework. However, many children in Erie St. Clair are also faced with the prospect of managing their health conditions while at school. The Erie St. Clair Community Care Access Centre's School Health Support Services (SHSS) program helps to support these children by providing a multitude of services that enable them to attend school, participate in school activities and receive instruction.
For those children with complex health care needs, the Erie St. Clair CCAC's SHSS Care Coordinators coordinate medical and rehabilitations services in school, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology and nursing. From help with fine motor activities such as grasping a pencil to help with feeding tubes and shots, our SHSS Care Coordinators ensure children have the support they need to thrive in school. "Some of these kids require support all day long while at school", says Diane Mulcaster, Director of Patient Services – Community Services. "Without these supports, they would not be able to attend school or take part in regular school activities".
The Care Coordinators in the SHSS program are skilled and understanding of child growth and development. They work with specialized Service Providers (SPs) to support children and also assist parents in managing their child's needs and navigating the health care system. "I have one young boy with cancer starting JK next week", says Becky Dyson (see below photo), SHSS Care Coordinator in Chatham-Kent. "He needs a shot every morning at school. By working with his family and VON, we were able to ensure his nurse is there every morning to give him that shot".
The Erie St. Clair CCAC recently partnered with the John McGivney Children's Centre to bring Occupational Therapists (OTs) into JK and SK classrooms in Windsor-Essex. Through this Classroom Consultative Program, OTs are able to identify children with motor issues early on and help them accomplish motor activities. Having these OTs and other supports in the classroom is also beneficial to teachers who are given the knowledge to identify and assist kids that are having challenges. Other community partners across Erie St. Clair are creating similar early intervention programs. "This is extremely important as these children are often bullied when the issues are not mitigated. With our community partners, we are helping them to be the best they can be", says Diane Mulcaster.
The SHSS program has also partnered with the John McGivney Children's Centre to provide helpful fine motor activity resources to teachers and parents. This includes tips for helping children with their pencil grasp, colouring, tying their shoe laces, etc. Not only are these helpful for children with development issues, but they are also a great resource for any parent or teacher who is teaching their children these skills for the first time. These resources can be found on the SHSS page on the Erie St. Clair CCAC's website.
By working together with community partners, patients and their families, the Erie St. Clair CCAC is helping to ensure that back to school is a smooth transition for every child.