Ministry of Education
Provincial and Demonstration Schools Branch


Life Skills

Our Life Skills Program incorporates the teaching of daily living skills to enhance the independence, dignity and productivity of students who are visually impaired. Life Skills Instructors work together with the student, parents and lodging staff to set goals which are individual to each student. An individual program plan is created to best suit the child’s age, cognitive abilities, physical limitations, as well as visual impairment. Students from Grades 1 to 6 receive a 45 minute class per week; students from Grades 7 to 12 receive a 45 – 80 minute Life Skills class. This varies from one to two classes per week, depending on need.

Life Skills lessons include the following areas:

Self-Help Skills

  • face and hand washing, hair care, tooth brushing, dressing skills, shoe tying and clothing organization.

Concept, Positional and Sensory Development

  • right, left, up, down, body awareness, shapes and textures.

Social and Communication Skills

  • friendships, problem solving, anti-bullying, internet safety, personal safety and healthy relationships.

Dining and Kitchen Skills

  • scooping, cutting, pouring, spreading, setting a table and using kitchen appliances.

Home Management

  • cooking, cleaning, shopping, organizational skills, labelling, money management and budgeting.

Leisure and Recreation

  • sewing, knitting, card games and group activities (areas of interest to the students).

Three reports are done each year to assess progress, provide observations, and to recommend future areas of focus for each student.

Orientation and Mobility

The W. Ross Macdonald School employs 6 full-time O&M Specialists who provide one on one instruction once a week for the entire school year. Lessons may be 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 60 minutes or 90 minutes, as required to meet their individual needs and personal goals. With no travel time necessary, each specialist currently instructs approximately 20 students each week. Lessons are provided during the day, after school, and in the evenings in order to best accommodate student schedules and visual needs.

At the beginning of every school year, each student and instructor establish a list of goals from their needs and strengths to develop an Individual Program Plan. In January, a progress report is generated, which assesses the goals and progress, making any adjustments that may be needed. In June, an end-of-year report gives final recommendations and observations.

Local students may be offered instruction in their home neighbourhoods, while lodging students focus on transferable skills which they may bring to their home areas. Secondary students are given the opportunity to earn off-campus passes that would allow them to travel to nearby destinations without direct staff supervision.

Lessons occur within the school and all over the city of Brantford. In addition to focussing on standard skills and techniques, instruction may also include fun activities such as O&M specific board games created by our staff. Community destinations are also explored, often with special hands-on experiences.

Opportunities to travel outside the city also occur, with lessons on the Via Rail train, subways, city buses, roundabouts, and unfamiliar areas in other municipalities. The work experience program allows our students to put into practice everything they have learned in their O&M lessons. Applying their skills and techniques to a valuable real-life experience helps the students develop responsibility, a greater appreciation for O&M, and confidence in themselves and their travel abilities.

O&M at WRMS offers a team approach. Direct instruction occurs from O&M staff but consultation and reinforcement comes from parents, teachers, lodging staff, life skills staff, physiotherapists, and other professionals who may have knowledge regarding the student. WRMS also collaborates with outside agencies, including the CNIB and Views. We also support the Short Term Placement programs to work on specific skills for children, youth, or young adults who are blind or have low vision and their families.

Student Health Services

Our Student Health Services allows parents to be assured that while their child is at W. Ross Macdonald School, they will have Registered Nurses available if they are not feeling well. Our nurses actively support the health, mental and physical well-being of students. Nurses are on duty from 7 in the morning until 11 at night and are located in two offices: in the main school and in Southview, our Deafblind lodging. Our nurses communicate regularly with parents and ensure that any medications that students require are administered by the nurses at the required time (e.g., pills, injections and inhalation therapy). As well, Student Health Services works closely with the kitchen and monitors and ensures that special diets are being followed. If a student is not feeling well, there are 4 beds available in Student Health Services to rest. We also have a Pediatrician who visits 3 days a week and for emergency care, as well as a psychiatrist who visits twice a month.

Music Therapy

At W. Ross Macdonald, we have a full time music therapist who works with students in our Elementary, Secondary and Deafblind schools. We have 2 music therapy rooms with a full array of instruments, as well as a Sound Beam Room, which uses electronic beams to create sounds. The music therapist works with students to promote, maintain and restore mental, physical, and spiritual health through self-expression, communication, interaction and personal development. When our music therapist first works with our a child, she does an assessment to determine the student’s interests, strengths, needs and goals for the sessions. Music therapy experiences may include playing instruments, improvisation, directed music listening tasks, rhythmic and expressive movement, composing, and singing.

Snoezelen Room

Snoezelen was originally developed in Holland. The word “Snoezelen” originates from two Dutch words meaning to “sniff” and to “doze”. The room is developed with the intention of providing people who have sensory and learning disabilities with a with appropriate relaxation and leisure facilities.

The Snoezelen Room opened in 1997 ( therapy pool 2012 opened and Snoezelen pool opened in 2006) all offer a full range of sensory stimulation and enjoyable experiences in an atmosphere of trust and relaxation. In a safe, comfortable, non-threatening environment, the primary senses are stimulated by wonderful combinations of music, light, gentle vibrations, tactile sensations and aromatherapy.

Sensory modalities provide a key to unlocking tension and defensive behaviours, opening students to relaxation and acceptance of further intervention. The interactive sensory environment created by Snoezelen allows students to experience all aspects of leisure, from active exploration (“sniffing”) to keep, peaceful rest (“dozing”). Snoezelen also enhances communication between the students and staff, improving their trust and understanding of each other, provides opportunities for choice at a pace set by the student, allows repetition of cause and effect for learning, and provides the opportunity for the student to select and enable the stimuli.

These unique and creative sensory stimuli have allowed each and every student in our school to enhance their sensory awareness in a safe, comfortable and cozy environment. The gentle stimulation has a soothing effect which helps to relieve agitation, tension, frustration, and anxiety. The effect occurs in Snoezelen, but also continues for the remainder of the day.

Remedial Braille

For blind and visually impaired children, being able to read and write braille is the key to literacy and independence. Remedial braille is available to all braille using elementary or secondary students at WRMS and ranges in instruction from pre-braille activities, to learning braille letters, to becoming fluent alphabetic braille readers, to learning contracted braille. Instruction is usually individual once per week or bi-weekly for 40 minutes. Sometimes students are paired together if they are reading at similar levels. Instruction takes place in the Braille Room located in the school library, or in the classroom. Reading materials are chosen very carefully to ensure that every student is engaged and interested in what they are reading.

Social Worker

Our school social worker helps to ensure that your child’s experience at W. Ross Macdonald With the proper support and tools, students of all abilities can learn ways of staying mentally healthy and building strong friendships and relationships. When we all work together, we see success! If you are a parent of a student, you are also a part of our school community. In fact, you play the strongest role in supporting your child in learning ways to manage stress and conflict. The “Parent Tool Kit” and “Parent Tool Kit-Teen Edition” available to you for free through the links listed below are great resources for you. These tool-kits will provide tips on how to support your child through many aspects of success-including their mental health and well-being. The School Social Worker is available to provide individual counseling, group counseling, transition planning support and referrals to other community services.

Behaviour Consultants

We are lucky at W. Ross Macdonald School has two full time Behaviour Consultants, who are available to help support students, school and lodging staff, as well as parents. They share appropriate strategies to ensure that we are supporting a student in the best way possible. Data may be collected in both the school and lodging settings through observation and Antecedent, Behaviour, Consequence (ABC) Charts. If required, our Behaviour Consultants, based on the data collected, will then create a behaviour plan which will give all staff involved strategies to create a positive and consistent environment for the student.

Sight Substitution

The Sight Substitution Centre (SSC) is located at W. Ross Macdonald School, Ontario’s only school for the blind, deafblind and visually impaired. The SSC is an Assistive Devices Program Assessment Centre. This centre is part of the network of assessment centres, throughout the province, and operates under the Ministry of Health’s Assistive Devices Program, in partnership with our school.

The Assistive Devices Program (ADP) provides 75% of the funding for approved equipment to eligible clients. Individuals receiving assistance through the Ministry of Community and Social Services, Ontario Works (OW), the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), or Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD) qualify for additional funding. ACSD is a program for children who are under the age of 18 and have a developmental disability that results in an ongoing functional loss. The program is income-tested.

The SSC provides assessments for ADP funded equipment for children and adults who are blind or visually impaired, and whose primary means of reading or writing is auditory, audio books or screen reading software or tactile, i.e., Braille. Visual aid equipment approved through the ADP, at the SSC, consists of low and high technical reading and writing aids for personal and home use. Equipment ranges from the low tech end such as the Perkins Brailler, to the high technical such as desktop or portable computers with screen reading software, and Optical Character Recognition software used with optical scanners. Other devices include Braille embossers or printers, refreshable Braille displays, personal information managers (note takers) with Braille or QWERTY keyboards, Audio or Daisy Book readers. The SSC also provides telephone and on-site user support for clients. If necessary, the SSC works in conjunction with other ADP assessment centres, to ensure individual needs are met.

In order to be eligible for an assessment for ADP funded equipment, you must be a resident of Ontario, and have a valid Ontario Health Number. There is no age or income restriction. Eligible individuals may be eligible for a low tech reading or writing aids, and a high tech writing or reading aid.

The SSC is located on the main floor of the W. Ross Macdonald School.

Interested individuals can contact us by phone: Toll free (800) 434-2105 or (519) 759-0730, Ext. 281/286. Our e-mail address is: