Supporting Students with Additional Needs During Emergency Remote Teaching

Day 2 was be held on Thursday, April 30th at 2:00 pm.

On Thursday, April 23, 2020, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Professional Learning hosted the first of a two-day webinar series on Supporting Exceptional Learners During Emergency Remote Teaching. The series was free to all Saskatchewan teachers.

The first day consisted of a discussion panel of Saskatchewan educators who shared their perspectives and experiences during these unprecedented times. This is the video from the session.

The panel members were:

  • Lois Keller, ELA and Student Support Teacher at Nutana Collegiate in Saskatoon Public SD, and a member of our Provincial Facilitator Community working in the area of accreditation.
  • Angela Yeaman, Vice Principal in Prince Albert who is also a member of our Provincial Facilitator Community working in the area of Early Learning.
  • Colette Berg, Learning Assistance Teacher at St. John Community School with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools. She has also worked as Vice Principal and has her Master’s degree in Counselling.

The second day was a facilitated focus group moderated by STF Professional Learning based on emerging topics from the first session. The second session was not recorded, but a summary is listed below.


“The Ministry of Education, in partnership with stakeholders including school divisions, schools, parents/guardians, inter-ministry groups, students and human service agencies, encourages the actualization of a needs-based model of identifying and providing supports for students.” (Saskatchewan Ministry of Education, 2015)

During this time of remote teaching, we continue to be guided by the same principles when supporting students and families with additional needs. Educators across the province collaborated during an online webinar and focus session to share resources and methods to provide student-focused, needs-based support at home.  Below, you will find a compilation of these suggestions as well as some online resources you may wish to consult for more information on responding to student needs at all three levels of intervention.  One recurring message from our participants was that in all situations, it is important to be supportive of families and classroom teachers and take precautions to not overwhelm parents/guardians and classroom teachers.

Please note that, as this situation is ever evolving, any future guidelines from the Ministry, the STF, or individual school divisions will take precedence over the recommendations listed here.

Classroom-Based/School-Wide Supports: (Differentiated Instruction, Learning Environment, Inclusive Practices, Parent/Guardian Involvement, Fostering Independence, Assessment, Team meetings) (click to expand)

  • Connections with kids are the most important thing. Keep a focus on these and do not get too hung up on the rest. 
  • Self-care is important for everyone.
  • School provided support to get food to students/families who regularly access nutrition at school.
  • School divisions have worked to access laptops, Chromebooks, iPads, Smart phones and internet access to families in need.
  • The Kolibri app by Learning Equality may be helpful for students with no internet services. The application must be first downloaded onto the device when it is connected to the internet (i.e., at school). Then, students can access limited digital resources for learning when the device is offline.
  • School divisions have sent out learning packages to students with no technology, including art supplies, pencils, paper, workbooks, notebooks, journals, inexpensive or printed reading books…  (No contact porch drop-offs)
  • Some school divisions are using bus drivers to make deliveries of nutrition and learning packages.
  • To assist parents/guardians and students having difficulty navigating multiple types of technology, websites, passwords:
    • Keep set up directions for different tablets/phones/laptops/gaming devices on hand. If possible, use screen shots to provide visual directions.
    • Keep it simple: the fewer websites and passwords the better. Set up classrooms to have direct access via one portal (such as Google Classroom).
    • Don’t try something new if students haven’t done it before.
    • Focus on one-on-one for extra support.
    • Teach explicitly about new tech – break into breakout rooms to try it in smaller group session.
    • School FB page developed over time – sharing different pictures (i.e.: 7 ways to calm a child, etc.) for sensory and regulation ideas for many children rather than one specific child.

Targeted/Group Supports: (Collaborative Team/Inter-Agency: Direct Services, Record of Adaptations, Parent/Guardian Engagement, Assistive Technology) (click to expand)

  • For students experiencing distress over Covid-19, school closures and missing friends and family:
    • Sent home social stories/Covid-19 stories:
      • emailed them to families,
      • put them in a Google classroom for students on IIPs
      • Physical drop offs of printed social stories.
    • Provide Families with access to any resources for Zones of Regulation.
    • SST/LRT with own Google Classroom to share resources with families.
      • Add Educational Assistants and parents/guardians to ensure that everyone is equally informed.
      • Can set up individual assignments and/or classroom pages for specific students.
    • Video Chat – message from the teacher, regular feedback.
    • Google Meets – weekly class meeting, kids craving to listen to their friends.
  • Working with families for whom English is an Additional Language.
    • Google Chrome Translator can be helpful. Set this in your browser, install the extension for google chrome translator.
    • Take photos of step by step instructions for a particular website or a program.
    • Multiple styles of technology make this hard: Reduce the number of platforms and websites that families need to access.
    • Google as a resource.
    • Enable closed captioning or subtitles whenever possible.
    • Contact Open Door Society or other translator in your community and ask them to participate in virtual meetings or online sessions if needed.

Intensive/Individual: (Assessed Areas of Need, Priority Areas of Development, Supports to Address Needs, Inclusion and Intervention Plan) (click to expand)

  • Term 3 IIP Progress Reporting: Please follow guidelines from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education as they are released.
    • Ideas for next steps could be what they could do at home:
      • Conversations with family about what goals look like at home (building independence at home).
      • A progress report can’t be done on a benchmark/measurement that’s not done or can’t be done at home. It is likely that many goals will look very similar for next year.
      • Focus on long-term goal of independence, social skills or life skills: How does the current IIP goal relate to long-term outcomes?
      • Think about more individual interests of the child and what they want to explore and if it is possible to fit any of the IIP goals into that interest and do a mini project.
    • Wait for communication from the Ministry and your division office in regards to official documentation.
    • Some divisions are suggesting that one goal may be added to the IIP to work on at home if none of the IIP goals are appropriate for home-based learning.
  • Students transitioning to a new school or high school:
    • Start conversations to transition to the new school appropriately.
    • Communicate with classroom teacher.
    • Reach out to new school team
      • Facilitate a meeting/hand off to a person in the new building.
      • Transition start now to ease the transition the best you can.
      • Virtual transition to the new place – the same transition procedure but virtual.
      • Arrange a virtual transition meeting for current team, parents/guardians and student with the new school team.
      • Connect the new student with a “Big Buddy” or a student the already know at the school. Possibly through social media?
      • Virtual tour or the school… may be live or asynchronous by video produced by the new school – i.e.: this is the new place, what do you need to take with you, etc.
      • Socially distanced tour of the new school when possible and following guidelines from the Chief Medical Health Officer of Saskatchewan.
    • Social story on transitions
  • Supporting students’ goals that target routines:
    • Assist families in developing a visual schedule.
    • Work with families to align tasks with family routines and daily life.
  • Supporting students with ASD or other intensive needs:  
    • Important to take a team approach to problem-solving.
    • Maintain Connection – “We can pick up on the rest later.”
    • Look at ways to support the parent who may be overwhelmed and need respite.
      • Reduce demands on the parent.
      • Encourage parent – be supportive of their efforts; be gentle.
      • Other agencies who might support? Alvin Buckwold, Elmwood Residences?
    • Engage staff and parent in discussion.
    • Recognize that the school (academic) goals may not be priority for the parent at this time.
    • Try to tap into siblings in the home and have some tasks given by the sibling.
    • Look at the community resources and see if there is someone else who may connect with the family to better meet the needs.
    • Create a new routine for home:
      • Visuals- allow choice, include virtual class time/ check-ins with staff, independent “work” time (preferred activities), and time for outdoor walks/ play in the yard and favourite activities.
      • Daily challenge – make a snack, tell me what your four steps of the morning routine.
    • Have school counsellor check in at a set time once per day.
    • GoZen (or other mindfulness app).
    • Learning package: including paints, paintbrushes, playdough or clay, geometric blocks, LEGO.

Offering Support - Roles for Student Support Teachers (i.e.: LRT, SERT, LAT, …): (click to expand)

  • Connecting with families, particularly vulnerable families or students with targeted or intensive needs.
    • Sending emails to teachers and waiting for them to reach out if they need stuff.
    • Documenting:
      • calls, video meetings.
      • ways we have attempted to contact parents/families & family preferences around contact.
      • sharing resources with classroom teachers, EAs, families, specialists.
    • If a particular classroom teacher is displaying signs of being overwhelmed, it may be supportive to offer a clear plan of what the SST could do to support, rather than asking teachers to develop their own plan for support.
    • Coordinating and/or finding correct supports for students: (updating social workers, OT, PT, SLP, etc.)
    • Join in classroom chats to be connected with students and teachers (SST/LRT – be brave and ask if you can join the classroom chats).
    • Paper packages – SST/LRT putting stuff in the packages.
    • Assisting with nutrition programs at schools.
    • Developing materials for classrooms.
    • Checking in with EA’s and coordinating PD for EAs.
    • Attending video chats with IIP students (individual and group),
Offering Support - Roles for Educational Assistants: (click to expand)

  • Stuffing envelopes or boxes for at-home work.
    • Reading books during live video chats or on recorded video to send to students.
    • Sending out letters, mail or postcards to families.
    • Allowing kids to write you notes and cards and mail them or drop them off to keep connecting. 
      • Connect with schools about access to envelopes and stamps.
      • Possibly providing stamped envelopes and/or postcards to students.
        • Might provide cardstock cards so students can design their own postcard to send.
    • Creating ‘Chalk Walks’ in front of student homes to encourage students to have body breaks and outdoor activities. (Follow social distancing guidelines from Chief Medical Officer of Saskatchewan)

(Example taken from

  • As EAs cannot legally do therapy remotely, they may wish to schedule regular conversation time (by phone or virtually) with the student and encourage the use of the sounds/phrases/language structure you were working on.
    • Check-in with at-risk students to see how they are doing and reaching out to school staff for professional support if they notice signs of mental distress, self-harm, or abuse.
    • Shift work from specific students to supporting classes: join in class virtual meetings; assist teacher in preparation or corrections; have set times available for students to email or check-in online for homework help; creating hands on materials such as flash cards and manipulatives.
    • Participating in weekly team or staff meetings or daily ‘coffee zoom’.
    • Participating in professional learning on topics related to current or future work with students: Autism, Augmentative and Alternative communication (AAC)
    • Participating in book talks on professional topics (i.e.: Kids These Days by Jody Carrington; Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Our Hope for the Future by Larry Brendtro, Martin Brokenleg, and Steve Van Bockern)

General Information and Resources: (click to expand)

  • Actualizing a Needs-Based Model

Education in Saskatchewan is guided by the philosophy and principles of a needs-based model of service delivery. A needs-based model focuses on the strengths, abilities and needs of each individual student, whether or not the student has a diagnosis. This document emphasises the importance of collaborative school teams putting the student first by identifying and providing supports that foster their learning, success and independence in inclusive settings.

Actualizing a Needs-Based Model, 2015 is available in the government’s Publications Centre:

  • The Adaptive Dimension for Saskatchewan K-12 Students

The Adaptive Dimension for Saskatchewan K-12 Students (2017) is a renewal of the foundational document The Adaptive Dimension in Core Curriculum, created in 1992. The core ideas in the renewed document remain the same:

  • Adaptations involve making adjustments to meet the needs of all learners in the context of Saskatchewan curricula.
  • All educators are responsible for using the Adaptive Dimension as needed.
  • Inclusive Education

Inclusive education respects and appreciates diversity. All students are provided with opportunities to share their unique abilities; develop a sense of self, community and place; and become lifelong learners and engaged citizens. The document, Inclusive Education, is a resource for school divisions to promote an understanding of what is meant by inclusion, inclusionary philosophical beliefs and practices of inclusive education.

Inclusive Education, 2016 is available in the government’s Publications Centre:

  • Supporting All Learners

The Ministry of Education has organized student support services documents and a collection of professional resources in an online Blackboard repository called Supporting All Learners. Supporting All Learners is guided by the Student First approach and aligns with the principles of a needs-based model.

Each page on the site has the following:

  • a brief description of the topic,
  • Saskatchewan Ministry documents;
  • professional resources;
  • supporting links; and,
  • if available, professional videos.

Supporting All Learners is available on the curriculum homepage under Quick Links: Student Learning Supports