Community Living Out Loud

Fostering Inclusion: The Role of Early Childhood Education Resource Services

March 06, 2024 Community Living Mississauga Episode 8
Community Living Out Loud
Fostering Inclusion: The Role of Early Childhood Education Resource Services
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

All children deserve the opportunity to play, grow, and learn alongside their peers in a supportive and inclusive environment. It not only benefits children with special needs but helps foster a community that reflects the diversity of society.

In today's episode of Community Living Out Loud, host Peter Reynolds and guests Lisa Fantauzzi and Maria Jarmillo discuss the work of Community Living Mississauga's Early Childhood Education Resource Services Team, which supports children with intellectual disabilities in local childcare centers.

and Maria share their experiences with the program, including success stories, the challenges of growing caseloads and what keeps them motivated every day.

You can also watch this episode on YouTube

If you're enjoying this podcast, please be sure to subscribe. We'd also love to hear any episode suggestions you may have.

Peter Reynolds  0:00  
Welcome to Community Living Out Loud brought to you by Community Living Mississauga. I'm your host, Peter Reynolds. On this podcast, we celebrate the lives of people who have an intellectual disability, and the incredible work being done to advocate for them and their families. Through conversations with experts, advocates and people with lived experiences. We hope to inspire and educate listeners on the importance of building strong supportive communities. Let's get loud.

It's never too early to begin teaching children about the importance of inclusion. That's why Community Living Mississauga is Early Childhood Education Resource Services team is dedicated to ensuring that children who have an intellectual disability can attend to licensed childcare programs in their own community. The team has a simple philosophy. They believe that all children should have the support they need to play, grow and learn alongside their peers in a welcoming and inclusive childcare environment. Joining us today to talk about this program are two people who put the super in supervisor and that's Lisa Fantauzzi and Maria Jaramillo. Early Childhood Education Resource Services supervisors at Community Living Mississauga, Lisa Maria, welcome to the podcast.

Unknown Speaker  1:29  
Thank you. Thank you,

Peter Reynolds  1:31  
Lisa, perhaps I can start with you. For those that don't know. Tell me about the Early Childhood Education Resource Services at Community Living Mississauga.

Lisa Fantauzzi  1:41  
Sure our department is part of a partnership with the Region of Peel along with three other agencies. And together we create peers, which is Peel Inclusion Resource Services. We currently at Community Living Mississauga have the largest team of the four agencies. We have 22 resource consultants, three supervisors, one manager, and one administrative assistant. Last year in 2023. We serviced 644 children. Currently, we are over 200 children already in our second month of the year. And we also service the largest number of childcare centers in Peel. Community Living Mississauga is currently in 92. Agencies.

Peter Reynolds  2:31  
Maria, anything to add to that it looks like you've got obviously a lot of individuals who you're serving and you seem to be, you know, sort of well entrenched in the community.

Maria Jarmillo  2:42  
Yes, no, I think Lisa covered most of it. I just gotta add that we keep growing as a team and every day we're bigger and bigger.

Peter Reynolds  2:51  
But you could always be bigger. 

Lisa Fantauzzi  2:54  
Yeah, absolutely. I think we will get bigger.

Peter Reynolds  2:57  
Maria, describe what a typical day looks like, for an early childhood education resource consultant.

Maria Jarmillo  3:04  
Yeah, that's a good question. I don't think there's a typical, like every day can be very different. But I would say generally, resource consultants go out to a center in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon again, and in between those visits are usually doing paperwork. There's a lot of paperwork that happens behind the scenes, it can be progress reports for the children created individual support plans for the children, emails, phone calls, with parents with the centers with older professionals. They also collaborate a lot with other professionals. So sometimes it'll be attending appointments or having phone calls with those professionals. And that can include physiotherapist, speech language pathologist, occupational therapists, behavior consultants. So really, there's no typical day, each day will look different, but there's a lot of things that they're doing. We're very busy.

Peter Reynolds  4:01  
So just to be clear, you have a family with a child who needs support. And the idea is, is that Community Living Mississauga has a consultant who's facilitating that support at a partner childcare center. Is that correct?

Maria Jarmillo  4:19  
That's right. Yeah. So we support the child. Sorry, go ahead, Lisa, if you want to take it over.

Lisa Fantauzzi  4:24  
So the family will make a referral through the Region of Peel website. And that referral comes after some discussions possibly with their pediatrician or family doctor. The referral may come out of some concerns that the childcare center has shared with the family and the family will decide to make the referral. They'll put the referral through the region appeal. And it will come to one of us and we will hand it to the resource consultant that is supporting that particular center.

Peter Reynolds  4:57  
So Lisa, Tell me, why is it important to support children in a community-based childcare program?

Lisa Fantauzzi  5:07  
Well, I think first and foremost, children learn from one another, they learn from being in the same space, they learn from being curious together. And when you're supporting a center full of children part of the resource consultants' role is to help the center to make little changes so that they can be more accepting and accommodating to all needs. So they'll our resource consultants will go in, and they'll do simple little things that anyone can do in any senator. Sometimes it's simply changing the direction of a table to allow for more children around the table. Sometimes it'll be lowering the height of a table so that a child in a wheelchair can access the things on the table or in the table, and then put other chairs around. So it invites other children to come and play in the same space. Part of our role is to ensure that every center is able to accommodate any children's needs. And so by us working there, we're hoping to create more and more centers that are taking children of all backgrounds.

Peter Reynolds  6:16  
Fantastic. And Maria, by integrating people into a community-based program, it's a fantastic opportunity for the other children to learn about inclusion.

Maria Jarmillo  6:29  
I agree, yeah, it gives them a perfect example of what our community should look like. And it not only is beneficial to children with special needs but also for children who are typically developing. So that's our hopes that everybody can participate. And everybody can be included because it benefits us all.

Peter Reynolds  6:52  
Lisa, do you have any stories that you can share with us, from your time at Community Living Mississauga?

Lisa Fantauzzi  6:58  
Sure, I have so many, one recent one, we had a family with twins, who was putting their children into childcare for the first time. And the parents were very hesitant. More so for one child who needed some extra support than the other, but met with our resource consultants first had an lovely conversation and went into the program. A little hesitant, but hopeful. And very quickly, by the end of the first week, was calling the resource consultant. And just so happy that she made that they made the choice to put the children in because she was seeing progress with the child who needed the extra support, but also with her other child who was benefiting from being in a program together with his twin. And it's just stories like that, where, you know, the simplest little things of the brothers being together in childcare with other children, learning together, making the family comfortable is going to allow them hopefully, when they go into later years in elementary school, a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more ready to continue their education.

Peter Reynolds  8:11  
As a parent, I can I know the stress of putting our child into daycare and some tears were definitely shed. Maria, I can imagine that the consultants, you know, there's a lot of hand-holding with the parents as well, you know, in addition to providing services for for their child. 

Maria Jarmillo  8:34  
So not only we work with the educators in the classrooms, but we also work with the parents and we guide them through the process. And we give them resources and services to in the community that can benefit the family and the child. So definitely we we create amazing relationships with these families because we work so closely together with them.

Peter Reynolds  8:55  
Maria, how has the model of support changed over the years?

Maria Jarmillo  9:01  
It has changed a lot. I will say maybe 15 years ago, caseloads were very small, maybe eight children for one resource consultant. Right now the average of children on a caseload will be around 16 children. So we can say at least they have doubled. We also have a lot more resource consultants in our team. We are in a lot more childcare centers. So that has also increased the demand. But also the region appeal change our model back in December of 2019. We used to provide a lot of home support to the family. So resource consultants would go into the homework with the families model strategies, provide resources. And that stopped back in 2019. So then our services are now more focused to the childcare center. So resource consultants don't go into the homes anymore. However, they still provide Like I said, resources and strategies to the families just not in person.

Peter Reynolds  10:06  
Lisa, how has the $10 a day daycare sort of implemented through the Canada early learning and childcare system affected your team?

Lisa Fantauzzi  10:17  
It's definitely brought us into more centers. So part of the agreement when a childcare center agrees to be part of the program, is that they have a partnership with us and that we go in. So our demand to be in more centers has grown over the last year, and we expect it to grow within this year as well.

Peter Reynolds  10:39  
Maria, I'm just wondering what what you envision is as the future of the program for you and your team?

Maria Jarmillo  10:48  
Well, I know long term, we're gonna keep growing, I already see it, we're gonna keep growing and growing, probably adding more staff to our group. But in the immediate future. I know for this year, our big focus is home-licensed childcare, we will be focusing more services and getting out to support those children that are attending home childcare.

Peter Reynolds  11:10  
What would you say is your biggest challenge moving forward?

Maria Jarmillo  11:12  
I would say, managing the caseload, it's we're seeing like we've said before, we keep seeing more children looking out for support. And we want to keep a balance between the numbers on the quality of service we're providing. So that's definitely a challenge I can see in the future.

Peter Reynolds  11:35  
Anything to add - Lisa?

Lisa Fantauzzi  11:36  
I completely agree. Our resource consultants are so committed to their work, and the quality of their work. And the larger the demand for their services, the harder it is to maintain their level of quality that they've been accustomed to. So I believe that like Bria said, our team will grow just so that we can continue to support the demands that are out there with the growing spaces that are expected to be in Peel within the next couple of years.

Peter Reynolds  12:04  
So you talked about the commitment that your consultants have to doing the work that they do. How do you stay motivated? You know, I can imagine that the job can can be challenging at times, Maria, perhaps we could start with you.

Maria Jarmillo  12:19  
Personally, I think the positive stories and those success stories keep me motivated. I find a lot of joy when we hear those stories like what Lisa has shared before. And those really keep me motivated. I love my job truly.
Peter Reynolds  12:36  

Lisa Fantauzzi  12:38  
Motivation comes from every day being a little bit different every day a challenge coming up, Maria, and I supervise the resource consultants on our team. And when they come to us with a question or concern, and we brainstorm with them, it gives us a chance to use the skills that we've acquired throughout the years in this field. And then when we go out to visit the centers, we see the work. And it keeps me motivated to wake up every morning and come into work.

Peter Reynolds  13:08  
Maria, I'm just thinking about for those parents that are watching this. And if you can talk directly to them. And if you have any advice or you know if there's any sort of preconceived notions that people might have about the services, what would you say to parents out there who are watching,

Maria Jarmillo  13:26  
I would say to them to not be afraid to look for support that every single child that we've supported, have succeeded and have done really well in the program. Everybody sees the difference the educators on the childcare centers are so thankful for support, because we truly are making a difference in so many people's lives.

Peter Reynolds  13:50  

Speaker 1  13:52  
So as a parent myself, who who has used these resources for my daughter in when she was in carrier a few years back, it brings a sense of relief to know that I can get support outside of my house. And when I saw that the educators were struggling to support my daughter, and they brought up peers. They didn't know where I worked. And it was it was hard, and it was a little scary. But we made the referral. And my daughter thrived after some time. And after a lot of work on everyone's part. She did so well in childcare. And so although it was scary, I'm so glad that we signed on and got the support that she needed and the support that we needed.

Peter Reynolds  14:43  
Fantastic, fantastic. Anything to add in great conversation, but any final thoughts Maria?

Maria Jarmillo  14:51  
I would say we I just hope that we continue to reach more children and more centers because like I said, I truly believe We're making a difference. So I hope that we can reach more and more people.

Peter Reynolds  15:05  
Lisa, any final thoughts?

Lisa Fantauzzi  15:06  
Yeah, I'm gonna echo what Maria said and also say that our model of full inclusion is going to keep expanding. And we hope that it not only expands through Mississauga, but through the province and all over the world. I want this to be the standard of what childcare looks like for every child.

Peter Reynolds  15:28  
Lisa, Maria, thank you so much for taking the time today to talk about Community Living Mississauga's Early Childhood Education Resource Services team. It's clear how important it is to provide support to children who have an intellectual disability and to provide that support in a local childcare center, where they can be with their friends. I guess it's truly never too early to begin learning about the importance of inclusion. 

Maria Jarmillo  15:54  
Thank you, Peter.

Peter Reynolds  15:56  
And as always, thank you to our audience. Your continued support is very much appreciated. And don't forget, whether you're watching this on YouTube or listening on your favourite podcast app, be sure to subscribe and leave a review. We want to hear what you think. So for Lisa, Maria, and everyone here at Community Living Mississauga, I'm Peter Reynolds. You've been listening to Community Living Out Loud, and until next time, stay loud!

Podcast introduction
Early Childhood Education and Inclusion
PEERS Program Overview
Process for Family Referrals
Importance of Inclusive Environments
Community Impact of Inclusion
Success Stories and Family Experiences
Challenges for Parents and Support Provided
Evolution of Service Demand
Future Growth and Focus Areas
Managing Increasing Caseloads
Staying Motivated in the Role
Advice for Parents Seeking Support
Hopes for the Future of Inclusion
Closing Remarks and Call to Action