While traditional schools are preparing online content for term two, the Maddington Education Support Centre is thinking outside the box to help vulnerable children.
The centre caters for students with special needs from kindergarten to year six, with many having a range of cognitive disabilities, including autism through to physical disabilities like cerebral palsy.
Currently the centre has 37 students enrolled in specialised and intensive programs that encourage students’ strengths and skills.
Principal Joanne Markovic said it is important to understand that the online learning that is being produced for mainstream students, doesn’t work for students with special needs.
“Our students need concrete materials to touch and feel in order to learn,” she said.
“As our students have varied immunodeficiency, with some being very vulnerable,
we have seen our numbers decline since the start of March.
“So, we have been doing some very alternative forms of learning packages over the past weeks.” As a result of the health crisis, staff at the centre developed what they call ‘Learning Showbags’ which include a variety of hands-on activities.
The bags include home-made play-dough which would help students work on their letters and shapes as well as their fine motor skills.
“We also made 35 jars of cookie mix, which contained all the dry ingredients so that the parents could deliver a cooking and life-skills lesson at home,” said Ms Markovic.
“We even managed to find a store that stocked 12kg bags of flour so that we could make all of these packs.”
In addition, the centre also set up online learning, and for those still attending in term two, intensive learning programs will remain available.
Caroline Davidson who works in essential services, has a nine-year-old daughter who has been attending the centre since she was three years old.
Emily Irene was born with Pierre Robin Sequence, cleft palate, micrognathia, microcephaly and suffered from respiratory syncytial virus when she was much younger.
Ms Davidson contacted The Examiner in the hope of acknowledging the centre’s stellar dedication amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and even prior to that.
“Maddington Education Support Centre is like a community, where all the teachers know all the kids and their individual needs,” she said.
“No child is left behind and are included in activities that fit their abilities and challenge them to strive beyond their limitations as much as they can.
“I like that all the children are taught Auslan so that everyone is included.
“Teachers even help with children’s individual needs, like Emily’s feeding problems caused by micrognathia.”