Supporting Students with Special Education Needs: A Team Approach

Over the past few years, school teams have worked to build resiliency and positive mental health for students through a variety of programs, initiatives and action plans. The Special Education Department has identified that school teams need to have clear, informative documents, to guide and support staff in the implementation of these action plans. Recently created additional resources identify the model, roles and supports available to guide the implementation of school teams.

Paula Perrault, Principal of Special Education, and Michelle Neville, Mental Health Lead, presented an overview of the resources available to school teams, and the model used within schools, which will help to build the capacity for schools to effectively respond to students with behavioural, mental health or addiction needs.

The CDSBEO Mental Health Action Plan outlines the strategies for supporting Board staff, and students. “Our goal is to provide as much support and awareness as possible, so that we can eliminate stigma, build resiliency in our learners, and listen to feedback from our school teams to improve the outcome for everyone,” explained Dr. Hawes, Superintendent of School Effectiveness.

School mental health teams were invited to complete a needs assessment, which helped to inform the creation of the action plan and support materials. In survey results, school teams indicated that anxiety, depression, and addiction, are the three priority mental health concerns in CDSBEO schools. Principals, teachers, SERTs, educational assistants, and board staff, all have necessary roles and responsibilities in helping to build positive mental health for students, and therefore need to work together to ensure the students experience a safe and supportive environment in which to learn.

The school teams are supported by Board Behaviour Crisis Consultants, Itinerant Able Workers, as well as Psycho-Educational Consultants. IAWs provide immediate support for the most intense situations. “It is however, essential to build capacity in school teams independently, to step back and look at what is going on, in order to develop an effective action plan,” noted Michelle Neville.

The Prevent, Teacher, Reinforce school-based model of individualized positive behaviour support is a significant piece of the team approach. It helps staff to prevent negative behaviour from occurring, and helps to de-escalate any situation which may arise. The model also teaches educators to help students set goals for independence, self-regulation, and reaching social, behavioural or academic objectives.

School teams have access to many resources to support various student needs, and to help develop a coordinated response to various situations. These include the newly created Building Resilient Students with Positive Mental Health flip chart, and the CDSBEO Mental Health Support package, which identifies roles and responsibilities of team members within the school mental health teams.


CDSBEO participated again this year in the Defeat Depression campaign. This great initiative helps to support mental health agencies in our community, and helps to bring focus and reduce stigma around mental health disorders. This video captures the success of this year’s campaign.

The new Building Resilient Students flip chart which will be placed in each classroom. The streamlined resource gives teachers a succinct overview with quick references to various mental health resources.

classroom resource flipchart