In our Deafblind program, all teachers are specialist teachers of the deafblind. Our Deafblind classes are very small, with one teacher for 3 students, as well as a student support counsellor in each classroom. Staff work with the same students through the entire school year in both school and residence settings so that there is consistency in both programming and expectations. We foster a team approach, with a strong home-school relationships where parents are encouraged to share insight about their children regularly, through communication with both school and residence staff. Communication with our Deafblind students is incredibly important and we use a Total Communication approach to ensure that each student gets what he/she needs. The Total Communication approach includes using whatever communication methods are most appropriate for each child. This may include but is not limited to: picture communication symbols, concrete communication systems, tactile cues, gestures, braille, sign language, photos, print, etc.
Programming for each student is individualized according to his/her needs, interests, abilities, past performances, and present levels of functioning. Programming also takes into account the pace, depth and best methods suited to their needs and learning styles. We focus on numeracy and literacy skills, beginning with the emergent stages and moves towards the Ontario Curriculum. Teachers create a comprehensive educational program making use of information from many sources including physiotherapy, music therapy, orientation and mobility, life skill staff, occupational therapy, speech and language pathologist and behavioural consultants. Experiential learning , in which the student is actively engaged in programming is extremely important at W. Ross Macdonald School and it provides the foundation for our students’ growth and development.
As well as work in the classroom, students go out into the community often (e.g., shopping at the grocery store, going to parks, museums, art galleries, etc.) and work on developing life skills (e.g., doing laundry, self care, delivering mail, etc.). Classes also have the opportunity to develop skills through use of the Snoezelen Room, the Pool and Therapy Pool, Gymnasium and our gross motor room with specialized equipment.
Our Snoezelen Room provides a safe, comfortable, non-threatening environment, where the primary senses are stimulated by combinations of music, light, gentle vibrations, tactile sensations and aromatherapy. It is filled with items such as visually stimulating fibre optic light strands which students can manipulate, projected images of stars, sky, fireworks, a bubble tube which changes colours, and a large ball pool filled with brightly coloured balls which provide a deep pressure sensation. It also has a hanging leaf chair which cradles the body and provides a gentle swinging motion and a musical hopscotch pad which encourages the student to step or jump on a brightly coloured square which then lights up the corresponding coloured square on a wall panel while a musical tone sounds. As well, the Snoezelen Room contains an "evening breeze" wall mounted unit which encourages the student to push large surface mounted switches to produce a steady breeze which blow across their faces and though their hair, providing gentle, pleasurable stimulation, and a variety of other tactile, visual and auditory stimuli. Our students may use the Snoezelen Room during both day and evening programming.