Change is never easy. Even less so if you have autism and are facing a world-wide pandemic.
But Katrina Crosby is doing her part to make sure her four “kiddos” at Agassiz’s Pivot Point Learning Centre are weathering a stressful time with as little difficulty as possible, and as much community involvement as possible.
Crosby is the lead instructor at the community classroom in Agassiz. The centre opened in September 2019 as a place for children and youth with autism to work on life skills and school work.
According to Cheryl Elderton, the regional manager for Pivot Point’s Chilliwack-Hope division, the centre started because some families already familiar with Pivot Point were concerned about sending their young kids to public school.
“They were just having concerns with what supports their children would be getting,” Elderton remembered. “So it was a lot of fears about putting their child into a large environment.”
Although not a school, the centre works with distributed learning teachers to help the students complete their Individual Education Plans — Crosby described it as combination of home schooling supports and health care services.
The centre opened in 2019 with six students, and currently has four in the classroom.
For Crosby, the biggest focus has always been community, both in the classroom and outside of it.
“Finding common ground for people to work with anyone in their life, is what community is,” Crosby said. “It’s not just your neighbour, it’s not just someone who lives down the street.”
Students in Crosby’s class range from a six-year-old who is non-verbal to an intellectual teenager, and building a program to help them create community with each other can be a challenge.
But it’s something that Crosby is making sure her students focus on.
“You need skills to be able to be living your best life, being independent and being able to make your own choices,” she said. “Knowing how to do these things is what we’re trying to help these kids be able to reach.”
In the first year Pivot Point was open in Agassiz, this included visits to the library, fundraising through the Agassiz Bottle Depot and visits to the museum.
When the pandemic hit, that all changed.
Students were moved out of the small house on Pioneer Avenue and switched to online supports. The focus of their time with Pivot Point staff changed.
“For some it was calming techniques. For some it was a focus on academics,” Crosby said. “For one kid it was just getting them to play an online game … and to have comfort in knowing that we were still there in her life, even though everything else had changed.”
In September, Pivot Point gave parents the option to bring their kids back to the classroom. They all came, albeit with more masks and hand sanitizer than there ever was before.
Now, Crosby is hoping she can get her students more into the community in a pandemic-friendly way.
“This kind of thing is really big,” she said. “Letting them be part of their community, see how they can work to make their community better and how we share our talents and efforts.”
The class already spends time at the Agassiz-Harrison Museum — “the kids like to go probably every week,” she said — and Crosby is hoping to get them involved with the Agassiz Community Gardens in the spring.
“Reaching out into the community is something we really look forward to,” she said, adding people reaching out to her with ways Pivot Point’s students can get involved in their projects is always welcome.
“For such a small community, Agassiz has so much going on and lots of potential for more,” she said.