Supporting Educators During COVID-19

By: Brad Littleproud, Autism Spectrum Disorder Consultant, School Support Program 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, families and educators across the world have had to pivot to attending school remotely, using online platforms. But did you know that even before the pandemic, Surrey Place’s School Support Program has helped children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as they move through Ontario’s education system? 

Surrey Place is proud to be the lead agency responsible for the program in the Toronto region since it was developed by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and the Ministry of Education in 2004. Our team has 20 interdisciplinary ASD Consultants, like me, who have expertise in education, applied behaviour analysis (ABA) and ASD. Together, we build connections between agencies, schools, and publicly-funded school boards so that educators have the tools they need to teach and support students with ASD. 

Fast forward to today – you might be wondering, how has the pandemic affected our ability to support educators? COVID-19 hasn’t stopped our small but mighty team from banding together to help educators across the region! In fact, since April 2020, we’ve successfully serviced almost 6,500 teachers remotely by shifting our learning modules online. Whether we’re working together in person or from home, our School Support Program is still here to help. 

As with many of the services at Surrey Place, our team rose to meet the unique challenges faced by families and educators during the pandemic. Even with school interruption, transition to online schooling, and a return to in-class learning following school closures, our ASD Consultants have provided a continuity of services through Telehealth platforms. We’ve been collaborating with Board partners and conducting online consultation meetings with educators to support our students who are learning at home or in the classroom. Our team is also here to help school board staff develop and share resources and materials. 

In addition to moving our consultations online, we also expanded our online webinars offered through Wellness Services. These events are targeted towards school board staff and caregivers, and include events like Visual Supports in the Classroom, ABA Strategies and the Return to School (after the COVID-19 interruption), Supporting Virtual Learning, and more! 

Throughout the pandemic, ASD Consultants have remained in supportive contact with the families we serve. Whether it’s by video call or simply by phone, being in touch with our clients is of utmost importance to our team, and to everyone at Surrey Place. 

At the end of the day, change is inevitable in how we do our work. The School Support Program continues to meet those changes, challenges, and needs of the families, children and education staff whom we assist. We’re doing this by exploring new opportunities to help in the many other transitions that happen during the lifespan of our clients. Our dedicated and knowledgeable staff are always available to help! 

To learn more about the School Support Program at Surrey Place, visit:

By 2 months

Has your baby had their hearing screened? YES NO

By 6 months

Does the child?

Startle in response to loud noises? YES NO
Turn to where a sound is coming from? YES NO
Make different cries for different needs (hungry, tired)? YES NO
Watch your face as you talk? YES NO
Smile/laugh in response to your smiles and laughs? YES NO
Imitate coughs or other sounds such as ah, eh, buh YES NO

By 9 months

Does the child?

Respond to their name? YES NO
Respond to the telephone ringing or a knock at the door? YES NO
Understand being told no? YES NO
Get what they want through using gestures (reaching to be picked up)? YES NO
Play social games with you (Peek-a-Boo)? YES NO
Enjoy being around people? YES NO
Babble and repeat sounds such as babababa or duhduhduh? YES NO

By 12 months

Does the child?

Follow simple one-step directions (sit down)? YES NO
Look across the room to a toy when adult points at it? YES NO
Consistently use three to five words? YES NO
Use gestures to communicate (waves hi/bye, shakes head for no)? YES NO
Get your attention using sounds, gestures and pointing while looking at your eyes? YES NO
Bring you toys to show you? YES NO
Perform for social attention and praise? YES NO
Combine lots of sounds together as though talking (abada baduh abee)? YES NO
Show an interest in simple picture books? YES NO

By 18 months

Does the child?

Understand the meaning of in and out, off and on? YES NO
Point to more than 2 body parts when asked? YES NO
Use at least 20 words consistently? YES NO
Respond with words or gestures to simple questions (Where's teddy? What's that?)? YES NO
Demonstrate some pretend play with toys (gives teddy bear a drink, pretends a bowl is a hat)? YES NO
Make at least four different consonant sounds (p ,b, m, n, d, g, w, h)? YES NO
Enjoy being read to and sharing simple books with you? YES NO
Point to pictures using one finger? YES NO

By 2 years

Does the child?

Follow two-step directions (Go find your teddy bear and show it to Grandma.)? YES NO
Use 100 to 150 words? YES NO
Use at least two pronouns (you, me, mine)? YES NO
Consistently combine two to four words in short phrases (Daddy hat. Truck go down.)? YES NO
Enjoy being around other children? YES NO
Begin to offer toys to other children and imitate other children's actions and words? YES NO
Use words that are understood by others 50 to 60 per cent of the time? YES NO
Form words or sounds easily and without effort? YES NO
Hold books the right way up and turn the pages? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 30 months

Does the child?

Understand the concepts of size (big/little) and quantity (a little/a lot, more)? YES NO
Use some adult grammar (two cookies, bird flying, I jumped)? YES NO
Use over 350 words? YES NO
Use action words such as run, spill, fall? YES NO
Participate in some turn-taking activities with peers, using both words and toys? YES NO
Demonstrate concern when another child is hurt or sad? YES NO
Combine several actions in play (puts blocks in the train and drives the train, drops the blocks off.)? YES NO
Put sounds at the beginning of most words? YES NO
Use words with two or more syllables or beats (ba-na-na, com-pu-ter, a-pple)? YES NO
Recognize familiar logos and signs involving print (Stop sign)? YES NO
Remember and understand familiar stories? YES NO

By 3 years

Does the child?

Understand who, what, where and why questions? YES NO
Create long sentences using five to eight words? YES NO
Talk about past events (trip to grandparents house, day at child care)? YES NO
Tell simple stories? YES NO
Show affection for favourite playmates? YES NO
Engage in multi-step pretend play (pretending to cook a meal, repair a car)? YES NO
Talk in a way that most people outside of the family understand what she/he is saying most of the time? YES NO
Have an understanding of the function of print (menus, lists, signs)? YES NO
Show interest in, and awareness of, rhyming words? YES NO
Read to stuffed animals or toys? YES NO
Scribble with crayons? YES NO

By 4 years

Does the child?

Follow directions involving three or more steps (First get some paper, then draw a picture and give it to Mommy)? YES NO
Use adult type grammar? YES NO
Tell stories with a beginning, middle and end? YES NO
Talk to try and solve problems with adults and with other children? YES NO
Show increasingly complex imaginary play? YES NO
Talk in a way that is understood by strangers almost all the time? YES NO
Generate simple rhymes (cat-bat)? YES NO
Match some letters with their sounds (letter b says buh, letter t says tuh)? YES NO