Student stories

Student develops behaviour management strategies for children with disabilities

Cassie Dayton-Mills

The Cowichan Valley Regional District and Percy’s Clubhouse

Please tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a fourth-year Recreation and Health Education student at UVic. Originally from Cowichan Bay, I have always had a deep passion for sports, recreation, and the great outdoors. I learned about UVic’s Health and Rec program in high school during ‘University Day’ when representatives from local universities and colleges came to speak at my school. I have always dreamed of a career that would allow me to help others through play, sport, and the outdoors, so UVic’s program seemed like it would be a perfect fit! The fact that this program has built-in mandatory co-ops was a bonus, as they seemed like wonderful opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the field.

Please tell us about your experience in the EPHE co-op program.

I have completed 3 co-op work terms so far and have one left. My first co-op was with the Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) where I worked as a jack of all trades. During my time with the CVRD I worked as a T-Ball and soccer coach, softball league supervisor, umpire, first aid attendant, and camp leader. I then completed my second and third co-ops consecutively at Percy’s Clubhouse, a non-profit childcare facility in Sidney. While at Percy’s, I worked as a one-on-one support leader for a second-grade student who had been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I really enjoyed both co-op experiences as they were quite varied, and I got to work with children, which is something I love!

Can you talk a bit about the hands-on learning you did?

While working for both Percy’s and the CVRD, I was pushed outside of my comfort zone, which allowed me to grow professionally in a very short period of time. Growing up, I played softball but had no experience umping so when I was asked to become the CVRD’s umpire I ‘stepped up to the plate’, as it were. As the umpire, I was responsible for learning an extensive list of rules, making split second decisions, and managing any issues that arose among players, coaches, or parents. This was initially very stressful and difficult, but as I increased my knowledge of the game, my self-confidence grew with it. The confidence to stand behind my decisions is a skill that I will bring to future employment positions whether it be on the field or in an office.

How does it compare to/complement your courses and classroom studies?

Lectures in the classroom are a great way to gather a base understanding about a topic, but in my opinion hands-on experience is where the real learning occurs. Through the projects on my work terms I was able to draw connections to multiple lessons taught in the classroom like classes on leadership, adaptive special education, and program planning. In a class setting, information is presented in a constant and steady manner, while hands-on learning can consist of unpredictable and sometimes difficult-to-handle situations. Having a base knowledge acquired from school gave me the tools to improvise and adapt to new situations on the job.

What did you learn most from this experience?

Without a doubt, my biggest takeaway from both co-op experiences was developing the ability to be adaptable. As a camp leader, I was constantly improvising and altering my pre-made plans to best suit the needs of the kids. As a support leader, my entire role revolved around modifying and creating new behaviour management strategies based on how my one-on-one child was reacting. This was a trying process and required an immense amount of perseverance to continue on when it seemed that nothing I was doing was helping. In the end, though, all of my frustrations were worth it when her behaviour did change for the better!

What are you most proud of about the work you did in co-op?

The thing I am most proud of from my time at Percy’s is how far the child I was working with improved over the 8 months I was working with her. This child’s behaviour was incredibly challenging when I fist met her, and through persistence, patience, and consistency I was able to put programs and strategies in place that lead to really positive observable changes!

What are your plans for your future career?

My career goal is to help others through sport, recreation, and the outdoors. I would love to work with children, possibly with a focus on children with disabilities. My main goal is to find a way to help others achieve things they didn’t think they could!

I would recommend co-op to other students because I believe that hands-on experiences are really valuable.

What is your advice to students considering the EPHE co-op program at UVic?

  • Look for job postings early,
  • Apply to as many positions as you can,
  • Apply to jobs that are outside of your comfort zone because pushing yourself is a great way to expand your skillset.

How has co-op impacted you?

My co-op experiences have helped reaffirm that I’m in the right field and improved my skillset. Participating in co-op has been a fantastic way to network and gain connections with other working professionals within the recreation sector.

More about Exercise science, physical and health education co-op