|FIRST CHILD DEVELOPMENT ROOM LAUNCHED AT WESTMOUNT PARK ELEMENTARY SCHOOL|
MONTREAL, NOVEMBER 5, 2004- A grant from the Unicorn Children’s Foundation (UCF) has helped kick start funding for the English Montreal School Board’s (EMSB) first Child Development Room project, to be situated at Westmount Park Elementary School.
Two more schools –Nesbitt in Rosemount and Dalkeith in Anjou- will be added to the program within the next few months. A non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to helping children with communication and learning disorders, the UCF works towards ensuring that every child with a communication or learning disorder is given the greatest opportunity to reach his or her fullest potential. UCF has provided $1,500 in initial startup funding for Westmount Park. Nesbitt and Dalkeith will get $1,000 each. Unicorn has pledged an additional $2,000 for two schools yet to be determined.
"I'm really excited about providing these children with a fun environment to develop speech, language, fine motor, gross motor and sensory skills," says Andrea Rich, a newly appointed Speech and Language Consultant to the EMSB. She and her husband Brian have been involved with UCF in the past. Brian attended the Westmount Park ceremony to present a cheque to their principal, Gail Somerville and take part in the unveiling of a plaque.
Westmount Park is an inner city elementary school with children from the Little Burgundy, Pointe St. Charles and St. Henri communities. The school has approximately 430 students, a number of whom have various learning or communication problems. This number does not include the pre-school program, which has no speech and language services, nor the new children in kindergarten classes whom Ms. Rich has yet to evaluate. Ms. Rich is the only speech pathologist servicing the school and does so twice a week. The Student Services Department of the EMSB has 12 speech and language consultants working full and part-time. Their experience ranges from recent graduates to those with 20 years or more years of service. 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.
The Student Services Department also operates the Centre of Excellence for Speech and Language Development through the Inclusive Education Management Committee of the Ministry of Education.
While the UCF’s mission is research based, Ms. Rich nonetheless approached them to donate funds for materials and labour to give the children a proper therapy room. She’d like to provide them with oral motor, speech and language as well as sensory integration materials. Ms. Rich is volunteering her time to set up the therapy room and order, buy and find materials. She will also donate speech and language computer programs from her Washington, DC practice. All the items will henceforth become the property of Westmount Park.
Rich hopes to set up similar rooms at some of the other schools she services and work with EMSB Director of Student Services Lew Lewis to access more outside funding.
The UCF was founded by Dr. Mark Rosenbloom, a native Montrealer, shortly after his son was diagnosed with a severe communication disorder. Prior to that, doctors reassured Dr. Rosenbloom and his wife that although their 16 month old son was not yet speaking, they "shouldn’t worry, he’ll grow out of it." But he didn’t.
By the time their child was finally diagnosed, he was three and a half years old. Many valuable months of therapy and intervention were lost forever. Not to mention, the pain and stress of multiple misdiagnosis during that two year period. Dr. Rosenbloom founded the Unicorn Children’s Foundation so that other families could get the resources and support that their children deserve.
Michael J. Cohen