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MONTREAL, OCTOBER 11, 2005- The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has introduced, as a pilot project, occupational therapy (OT) services to 15 elementary schools for the 2005-2006 academic year, via a contractual arrangement with Jewish Family Services (JFS).

As a result of ongoing feedback over the years from Student Services Department professionals, parents, and administrators regarding the importance OT services in EMSB schools, a decision was taken to implement a pilot project regarding the engagement of two full-time occupational therapists, Claudia De Luca and Ann Zilberbrant. This is an initiative supported by the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS).

The EMSB has had an ongoing partnership with JFS with respect to the B.E.A.T. (Building Educational Assets Together) Program involving 33 schools and the Winning Combination Gambling Prevention Program, currently being offered in three high schools.

According to EMSB Director of Student Services Lew Lewis, the provision of OT services is widespread within school districts in the United States wherein they are deemed essential, particularly at the elementary level. The goal of occupational therapy is to improve the studentís performance on tasks and in activities important for successful school functioning. School-based OTs are implicated in domains such as gross-motor skills, fine-motor skills, sensory-motor skills, cognitive perceptual skills, social/emotional development, and life skills.

"The emphasis will not be on a medical model but more on a collaborative/consultative model with parents and teachers which appears to be an essential component in maximizing the effectiveness of service delivery and satisfaction," said Mr. Lewis. "These findings are based on studies of school-based occupational therapy with students with a variety of underlying problems including physical disabilities, developmental coordination disorders, fine-motor difficulties, developmental delays and learning disabilities. The OTs will also be available to provide parent education workshops as well as presentations and in-service to staff."

The OTs will focus on number of specific objectives. These include: providing on-site screenings; formulating and implementing school and classroom-based intervention plans; engaging in ongoing consultation with teachers, administrators, students, and families; developing and implementing group interventions with students, parents, and staff, as needed; making recommendations and suggestions to teachers and parents, as well as other members of the schoolís multidisciplinary team; to increase developmental progress, gross-motor, fine-motor, cognitive, social/emotional, and daily living; conducting selective assessments, where possible, with certain students with identified difficulties; and identifying and referring for assessment those children whose present needs are beyond the immediate scope of the program.

In view of the fact that early intervention has proven to be important in minimizing the secondary behavioral, emotional, physical, and psychiatric problems that can result from students experiencing challenges in their lives, this pilot project will target students in pre-kindergarten to Grade 1 and possibly Grade 2 (depending on time availability). Interventions and/or consultations with students in non-targeted grades may be possible depending on school priorities, workload issues and time availability.

JFS will undertake an evaluation of the effectiveness of the occupational therapy services at the school level via measuring the progress of participating students, as well as via feedback from all stakeholders such as principals, teachers, parents, and Student Services Department professionals.

The 15 schools are: Dalkeith, Dante, Edward Murphy, Gerald McShane, Michelangelo, Bancroft, Cedarcrest, Nesbitt, Parkdale, Sinclair Laird, Coronation, Hampstead, Roslyn, St. Gabriel, Westmount Park. Each of these schools will be serviced for one day every two 2 weeks, with the exception of Parkdale which will be serviced one day a week.

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