October 31, 2019

Expansion Of Early Learning Intensive Support Program Means More Children With Intensive Needs Can Participate In PreKindergarten

Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant helped serve up some Halloween fun for the Prekindergarten class at École Palliser Heights School in Moose Jaw this afternoon.  Palliser Heights is one of 20 schools across Saskatchewan offering the Early Learning Intensive Support (ELIS) pilot program for the first time this year.

ELIS gives school divisions additional supports so preschool-aged children experiencing significant, enduring disabilities can attend Prekindergarten classes alongside other children.

“Our government is committed to giving all Saskatchewan children access to a quality education, regardless of their abilities or unique needs,” Wyant said.  “The ELIS pilot program is allowing Prekindergarten-aged children the chance to learn and play right alongside their friends, exploring the outdoors, singing, using their imagination, enjoying literacy, science, math and interacting with other children their age.”

The ELIS program has been available in Saskatoon and Regina since 2018, and was expanded to Prince Albert, Swift Current, North Battleford, Yorkton and Moose Jaw earlier this year.

More than $2 million in funding for the ELIS pilot program is being provided through the Canada-Saskatchewan Early Learning and Child Care Agreement.  There are currently 166 Prekindergarten spaces available for children with unique needs province-wide.

“If not for this program, we would have children who would not be able to attend school,” Prairie South School Division Director of Education Tony Baldwin said.  “Not only does the ELIS program benefit those children with unique needs, but the entire class is discovering how to play and learn together.”

“Over the last few years I have been concerned about my son’s readiness for school,” parent Kathryn Blondeau said.  “I worried that Ewan’s challenges would limit his success.  The ELIS program has given me hope that this will not be the case.  The ELIS program has increased his independence, communication and social skills, and he loves going to school each day.  It is so reassuring to know that his needs are being met, and I am so grateful.”

Research indicates that children experiencing disability benefit from participating in high-quality early learning programs with children of the same age who, in turn, also benefit.  Feedback from parents and school divisions indicates parents want a range of choices to support the early learning needs of their children.

The Ministry of Education has chosen to use a number of different approaches to develop its inclusion programming, including ELIS, Enhanced Accessibility Grants, the Early Childhood Intervention Program, and KidsFirst.