Connections and Inclusion

November 8, 2022

What does inclusion at school look like for students with significant behaviour and/or mental health needs?

All students need to feel safe at school and connected to the adults. The District Inclusion Support Team (DIST) focuses on supporting schools with the development and implementation of a collaborative plan to support inclusion for students. The team works to understand the student’s strengths and interests. It uses these to support the development of structures to increase feelings of safety, strengthen the relationships that students have with the adults at school, implement strategies for co-regulation or self-regulation and provide increased opportunities for learning within their school and classroom communities.

The greater the feelings of safety and connection, the greater ability of students to either co-regulate with their supportive adults and/or to regulate themselves. When students feel safe, connected, and regulated, they are more able to engage with learning opportunities, as their stress response is lower, and they can access higher-level thinking.

By working alongside schools over the past year, we have had the opportunity to meet incredible students and staff who are building connections together. We have seen staff and students connect through art, crafts, cooking, sports, games, and building creations. These connections help create feelings of safe school and classroom communities, strengthen relationships, and ultimately increase inclusion.

With support from the DIST team, students increased their attendance at school and time in their classrooms, knowing that they had what they needed to be included and there were adults available to support them.  Students have said, “I knew my EA heard me,” “I knew Miss S would miss me today if I didn’t come to school,” ‘It was fun to go on a field trip with my class,” and “I’m glad that I had some extra help to talk to my teacher about what I need.” Teachers reported feeling increasingly connected to their students, gratitude for being able to spend time with them in activities that were enjoyable for both and appreciation for the level of support!

Melissa Wood
District Inclusion Support Team Teacher, Middle Level
Learning Support Services, Abbotsford School District

Lori Mohitpour 
District Inclusion Support Team Teacher, Elementary Level
Learning Support Services, Abbotsford School District