Saskatoon

Functional life skills program tailors learning to Saskatoon students with disabilities

A specialized program in Saskatoon is helping children with cognitive disabilities succeed by putting them in a classroom focused on their needs.

'The progress is just amazing to see to watch them make social connections with one another': teacher

A wall decoration in the Functional Life Skills classroom at Chief Whitecap School in Saskatoon. (Emma Kramer-Rodger/CBC News)

It's Monday morning. Eleven students sit in a semi-circle in a classroom at Chief Whitecap School. They pass around a book filled with cartoons and descriptive words, and use this to recount their weekend and what they had for breakfast.

One of three functional life skills programs in Saskatoon, it is designed to support children with cognitive or learning disabilities. This classroom consists of students ages six to 11.

The room has a reading circle, art stations, group tables and a kitchen. The walls are covered in art projects done by the students.

We're not following the Saskatchewan curriculum but just more meeting their individual needs in this setting.- Lynn Anderson, instructor

This focused classroom is designed to avoid having students constantly pulled from regular classrooms for additional help.  The students do all their learning here, among their peers.

The goal is to meet each student where they are at and continue expanding on academic and personal success. 

"We're not following the Saskatchewan curriculum but just more meeting their individual needs in this setting," said instructor Lynn Anderson.

For many, the traditional education model does not match their learning abilities. The goal of bringing everyone together in this classroom is to really focus in on what each student needs to succeed.  Through this method, the students can work on individualized goals, and the curriculum is specific to each child's needs and cognitive abilities.  

Areas of focus include making peer connections, communication, social well-being, academic achievement, hygiene, numeracy and reading skills.

Student artwork decorates the walls of the Functional Life Skills classroom at Chief Whitecap School. (Emma Kramer-Rodger/CBC News)

Anderson speaks to the development she sees in the students, saying "the progress is just amazing to see to watch them make social connections with one another."

Once the students turn 11, they will move on to the intermediate program to continue their education.

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