The Magic of PIP

Amy Donovan, Supervisor-Jurisdictional programs, RVS – For over 10 years, Rocky View Schools has offered programming for preschool-aged children who have been identified with developmental delays, disabilities or medical conditions. The Preschool Intervention Program (more commonly known as PIP) has welcomed over 800 children during this time, providing effective early intervention and an encouraging, supportive beginning. It only takes one visit to realize that PIP is a magical place!

In PIP, program planning is a collaborative effort between the classroom teacher and therapists. Each child has an individualized program that supports them in reaching developmental milestones and established goals. Therapeutic interventions are part of daily programming and are intentionally woven throughout play, routines, and transitions. Parents are recognized as an integral part of their child’s success and are encouraged to be active partners by participating in regular family-oriented programming sessions to build capacity and maintain a consistent approach between home and school. But…this is not what makes PIP a magical place.

Parents entrust schools with an incredible responsibility; a responsibility that is heightened in the early intervention setting. Children, as young as three years old with identified delays will have their first experience with formalized programming. A positive or negative experience will often set the tone for their future education and it is important that we ‘get it right.’

There is a vulnerability to every family that comes to PIP. Many have unanswered questions about their child’s development; some know there is a delay in one or multiple areas. Some children have a speech delay that, with intervention and practice, can be corrected. Others have a diagnosis that will have lifelong consequences, the developmental impact of which is not yet clear. PIP is a ‘soft landing’ for wherever families find themselves. They are met with compassion and support; they can ask questions, share their challenges and celebrate successes. These relationships are an essential part of PIP’s success – they instill hope and open doors. It has been said that “parents bring us the best kids they have;” in PIP, this is recognized. Establishing and nurturing positive relationships with families is as important as the relationship that is developed with each child. Parents have confidence that their child will be loved, cared for and provided with the supports necessary to reach their individual potential. This is the magic of PIP!

Unquestionably, empathy and understanding are required when working with complex children and families. In PIP, children are welcomed for who they are, each bringing unique strengths and challenges and contributing in their own way to the classroom community. There is patience and sensitivity to the fact that each child is complex, will grow and develop at their own pace and achieve goals at different times. Growth can be slow and achievements, no matter how small, are significant and celebrated. Strong bonds develop between staff and children, amongst the children themselves and between the families who share a common experience. This is the magic of PIP!

One could assume in reading this that PIP is an entity unto its own, a specialized program with specific conditions that allow for the cultivation of magic. While PIP is unique in many respects, it does not hold the monopoly on magic. In fact, the same magic can be found in many classrooms within Rocky View Schools. These are the classrooms where teachers create inclusive, welcoming environments where each student feels that their teacher cares about them and is interested in who they are; where each student is given the opportunity to learn and work from a place of strength; where they are comfortable to take risks, make mistakes and try again. Rocky View School’s new Four Year Plan acknowledges the power of relationship and the incredible responsibility that we all have in creating environments where students feel a genuine sense of belonging. Despite being the last letter in the Design Principle acronym (LEARN), Nurturing positive relationships is our first task as educators. As we delve into this work, it will be our responsibility to make our own magic!