Q: What is your role with CASA’s new Pre-Kindergarten program?
A: As the Clinical Lead for Pre-Kindergarten, my role centres on the mental health, support and clinical care of the children. I provide support in the classroom in regard to behaviour management and mental health support to the families. Since this is a new program,
I also do some outreach work in the community to get the word out there about the new program.
Q: So do kids get assessed fairly quickly then, once they
A: Yes, fairly quickly. We have great access to Child Psychiatry with Dr. Michael Levinsky as part of our team. Once a referral is received an intake is set up fairly quickly because we currently do not yet have a wait list.
Q: What does that process entail?
A: Children have to be at the severe end of the scale. Most are severe in terms of social and emotional development and things like disruptive behaviour. So our program is unique in that respect. There are lots of early education sites but a lot of them focus on speech delays. We’re more focused on mental health concerns.
We also have speech and language and occupational therapy services, since it all goes hand in hand. So a child might be delayed in speech but also have mental health issues. It’s not always clear which came first. A lot of the kids are quite challenging to deal with and the typical strategies are not working for them.
Q: Have some children already received a diagnosis before being admitted to the program?
A: It depends. I know on our referral form we’d like to have all of the assessments already completed, but because these kids are so young that often isn’t the case. A lot of them have been diagnosed since arriving here. For many parents it may be the first time they’ve heard of ADHD.
Q: What other diagnoses are common?
A: There is a variety. Social Anxiety Disorder, Generalized Anxiety. Some have Query Autism Spectrum Disorder. Others have both ADHD and ODD – Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Developmental delays as well are common.
Q: So how long have you been in this current role?
A: Since last August. It wasn’t until mid-August that we heard the program was a go. I think I found out on my holidays, actually.
So when I came back, boom, we were off and running, developing the program from scratch.
Q: What is the age group you’re working with?
A: For the most part they’re four or five years old. It’s the year before Kindergarten.
Q: How many kids are in the program?
A: This year we only have one classroom with a morning and an afternoon group. So we can accommodate seven in the morning and seven in the afternoon, for a total of 14 kids. Next year we’ll have two classrooms of 14, so 28 in total. But the second classroom is going to be a Kindergarten class, which is really wonderful. Some of our kids will be able to come here for two years and get a solid foundation
in their behavioural skills before moving on to grade one.
Q: Tell me a bit about yourself. What’s your background?
A: My educational background is in social work. I first started at CASA as a Clinical Support Worker, with a degree in social work.
I worked for about six years at CASA and then I finished my Master’s at the University of Calgary a couple of years ago. After that I started working as a therapist at CASA in another program. Then I saw this position open up. I thought it was a perfect fit so I was really happy to come over.
Q: What is your vision for the Pre-Kindergarten program
over the next say, five or 10 years?
A: As we develop the program, we’ll have more things solidified including our curriculum and our behavior management program. So we won’t just be fine tuning, we’ll be making the program better and better over time to become a centre for excellence.