What does a specialized program look like for a bigger kid--like say, a kid who has "outgrown" ABA/IBI, or was never a fit for ABA/IBI to begin with; for a kid who has tried (and been let down by) the public offerings at their local school, or a kid with mental health needs like anxiety or depression, a kid who is bright but has clear barriers to learning that--when not addressed, can mean the difference between getting-the-grade and missing-the-mark?
Well, Mag Minds as those in the know affectionately call us, has been in the game since 2011; we started offering 1 class (yes, 1!) for kids 4-6 years old who needed a combo of 1:1 ABA, small group instruction, and help with language and social skills. With each year we grew; we added a Kindergarten class, a grade 1 class, and so on as our kids aged; we added OT, SLP consults, and specialized academic programming, we became an approved DFO provider and added began collaborating with an incredible Psychologist.
We became more educated, more experienced, and more committed to our values.
Quite simply, we grew with our students.
We've always felt that early intervention is essential; but, it's ultimately short-term (and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the current funding parameters in Ontario, though starting to broaden despite substantial cuts, seem to disregard that). And what if adolescence brings a new phase of change, a new transitionary period where a specialized approach is suddenly even more vital to success? Spoiler: it often does. As kids age, their needs change; that is just basic developmental theory. As kids age, the gap between them and their peers can narrow or widen--and just like in early intervention, the level of support received can make all the differences. There is quality of life on the line here.
So, what can I do about it? Well--as a service provider I've always been fond of changing the game. When Mag Minds starts in 2011 there were only a handful of other ABA providers also offering specialized education and barely any offered a comprehensive model with SLP, OT and Psychological (ahem, mental health) collaboration. So, whether I had a hand in shaping the direction of the field or just a seat on the train out of the station, I am proud to have been part of creating accessible and essential services, all under one roof. That is, after all, the very premise upon which Mag Minds was built.
But the work isn't finished.
There is a massive gap in service right now and it's leaving our kids who have outgrown ABA in the dark (no, in the pitch black). At Mag Minds we've already started to make a dent in changing this brutal truth, by offering ABA services with a mental health focus which, in my humble opinion, is increasingly vital as our kids age and their needs become more complex. Our Middle School (grades 6-8) program has gained significant momentum over the last few years, which has only solidified our opinion that this gap in service is far more substantial than many realize.
So, we're ready to double-down on our commitment to offering behavioural and educational programming through our mental health lens.
Starting September 2019 here's what we're going to commit too:
-Continue to build capacity for students grade 6 and up who are working below grade level in 1 or more subjects and/or who have behavioural or mental health needs not being met in their current program
-Developing curriculum content:
...with an emphasis on essential (and practical) skill building using evidence-based curriculums (we will leave NOTHING to chance)
...that targets both vocational and educational goals (why should you have to choose?)
...AND walks the line between two essential services (because hey, that's how we roll, are you new around here?)
...that offers an emphasis on mental health and wellness through evidence-based therapeutic modalities selected based on the needs of the students (think: mindfulness, CBT strategies, behavioural theory, art-modalities, emotion regulation, more).
...that develops leisure, life and social skills which promote integration into community initiatives
...that supports student independence
...focuses on self-advocacy, healthy relationships, diversity, consent, and the realities of maturing in 2019 and beyond
..that recognizes the end-goal(s) for each student, and takes meaningful steps to getting them there
...that recognizes that growth is not linear
Just like we did in 2011, we're committed to changing the landscape of available services and we're about to take a deep dive into that process. Our first cohort of students, under this framework, will be vital in shaping the future of this program. Parents and participating students will contribute to the foundation of a program that will be the first of it's kind for us. We're taking everything that has worked for us so far in our Middle School program, and expanding our reach.
And, we're pretty excited about it!