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MONTREAL, JANUARY 9, 2003- The Student Services Department of the English Montreal School Board has been awarded the Centre of Excellence for Speech and Language Development through the Inclusive Education Management Committee of the Ministry of Education.

"The EMSB has a clear understanding of the importance of speech and language development and a strong commitment to the delivery of speech and language services to its student population," stated EMSB Director of Student Services Lew Lewis. "The Centre of Excellence will provide us with the opportunity to build on our existing knowledge and expertise and to share this knowledge with other school boards."

The EMSB is committed to inclusive education for its student population and recognizes the needs of its students with speech and language disorders. There are presently 60 students within the EMSB with a code for severe language impairment. Approximately 40 of these students are currently enrolled in language classes at the elementary level, with the goal being to re-integrate them once they have gained sufficient skills in language development to ensure their academic success. It is important to note, however, that the vast majority of students with speech and language delays and/or disorders are integrated in regular classes and receive speech/language services at their respective schools. The Student Services Department of the EMSB has made great strides in providing the human resources necessary to support direct (individual and group therapy) and indirect (consultation, in-servicing etc...) services to speech and language delayed students. The current ratio of speech and language consultants to students in the EMSB is approximately one per 2,000, which is extremely favourable when compared to other English school boards in this province. The Centre of Excellence will provide the EMSB with the opportunity to build on existing knowledge and expertise and to share this with other school boards.

Acording to EMSB Speech and Language Pathologist Carol Jazzar, who is coordinating the activities of this new Centre of Excellence, initial objectives include the creation of a resource information centre at the central head office in N.D.G,. Here, individuals will be able to become acquainted with relevant resource materials, current journals, books, speech and language therapy materials, and assessment protocols. In addition to this service, consultants will be available for consultation via telephone, e-mail and fax. Meetings for small groups or individuals could be held for specific topics related to speech and language development. "We will be open to host other schools and school boards who wish to visit our Centre of Excellence or EMSB schools where specific speech and language programs are being carried out," says Ms. Jazzar.

The creation of a web site will provide information about speech and language issues and allow for an exchange of ideas, problems, suggestions and comments. In addition, this site will provide a reference point for other links deemed appropriate and useful for speech and language development. Workshops and conferences relevant to speech and language development will be organized and cover a variety of topics including phonological awareness and specific language impairment, which are in the forefront of speech and language concerns.

Some longterm goals include the creation of an information resource handbook that would provide important details on a variety of relevant speech and language topics, a description of the programs created for students presenting with speech and language impairment, definitions and descriptions of specific language disorders, and listing of available resources. Ms. Jazzar foresees potential collaborarion with McGill and Concordia Universities in terms of speech and language research. "We would like to engage in research, which would benefit the development of the Centre of Excellence for Speech and Language Development," she says. "Specific areas of research interests include phonological awareness and reading acquisition, developmental dysphasia, and early intervention treatment outcomes."

The EMSB is excited about providing the community with the benefit of its vast amount of knowledge, experience and expertise in the areas of speech and language development, and to provide students with speech and language difficulties the opportunity to reach their potential. "There is an extensive body of research, which clearly demonstrates the importance of speech and language development to intellectual and academic success as well as to a studentís emotional well being," says Ms. Jazzar. "We believe we can make a noteworthy contribution in this effort to provide all students with the speech and language skills necessary for a successful future."

A team of individuals, with a variety of skills and knowledge, has been created to develop and participate in the Centre of Excellence for Speech and Language Development. Led Ms. Jazzar, it also includes Psychologist Maria Castellanos, Special Education Consultant Judy Kennedy-Mancini and Webmaster Kathleen Prefontaine While the core team will meet on a regular basis, school principals, teachers, audiologists and occupational therapists will be called upon when needed.

The Student Services Department of the EMSB is fortunate to have 11 speech and language consultants working full and part-time. Their experience ranges from recent graduates to 20 years or more. They continue to be involved in many different areas of speech and language programming and development including special language classes, a summer language camp, language stimulation programs, speech and language screening projects, phonological awareness programs (enhancing reading and reading readiness skills in young children), specific intervention programs, discussion groups, in-service and training.

Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213