Help for 'challenged' students
First-ever project expected to help kids "at risk"

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Apr 04/97) - A pilot project between Yellowknife Catholic schools and Stanton Regional Hospital promises early intervention for students with learning problems.

A first for Yellowknife, it will provide medical help for students with language development, behavioral and social problems, said Liz Baile, the Catholic school board's special needs co-ordinator.

"It's for children who, for one reason or another, aren't learning," she said. "It's for kids who need professional assessment so they can learn."

Before the program got under way at the beginning of March, children with problems in the classroom were sent to the Glenrose facility in Edmonton.

Baile said moving the youths to Alberta distressed families and prevented them from taking the necessary steps to diagnose students' problems.

"It can be an intimidating process for a family that has never been down south before," she said.

Providing local medical attention through a team that includes a speech pathologist, child psychologist, behaviorist, occupational therapist, audiologist and a pediatrician, children can receive treatment faster and without the stress of moving.

Baile started the program in conjunction with Dr. Nicole Chatel, a pediatrician at the hospital.

"I didn't want kids to fall through the cracks," said Baile. "There have been many children who haven't been able to go to the Glenrose. This program came out of frustration with the current situation."

So, in November the two decided to collaborate and try to help seven students in the Catholic system.

"And the more we talked, we said we'd do it for seven other kids and in a real pilot project," she said.

The initiative stems from a new movement within the schools to look for outside help for classroom problems.

"We need more community outreach to help make the child more successful," she said.

While the $8,000 program has so far been a success, Baile isn't sure the school board will be able to continue funding the project.

Still, she warned against underestimating the importance of a program that may be able to save the system money in the long run.

"If we continue with this endeavor, they will get the support they need to be successful in school, and there will be less stress on the families," she added.