Mental Health in the Early Years:
Social Emotional Wellness from the Start

October 19 – 21, 2018
at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS

The Nova Scotia Child Care Association is pleased to host our sixth annual Mental Health in the Early Years: Social Emotional Wellness from the Start. We hope to provide practical knowledge and tools through a variety of exciting professional development opportunities aimed to support those who work with our most vulnerable population, children under the age of six and their families.

The Nova Scotia Child Care Association hopes to provide practical information for professionals to use in their daily interactions with young children, while stimulating the mind and recognizing the important work we do each day. This conference is intended to strengthen ties and expand collaborations between professionals who work with children in the early years of life, particularly those who require additional support.

This three-day conference will take place at Mount Saint Vincent University, Rosaria Centre from October 19th – 21st, 2018.

The conference planning committee invites you to participate in this exciting opportunity. We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

Conference Program Schedule

Friday, October 19, 2018
8:00 – 9:00 Registration and Networking
9:00 – 9:15 Welcome and Opening Remarks
9:15 – 12:30 Dr. Chaya Kulkarni
12:30 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 4:00 Barbara Reid
10:30 – 11:00 Morning Nutrition Break
2:15 – 2:30 Afternoon Beverage Break

Saturday, October 20, 2018
8:00 – 8:45 Registration and Networking
8:45 – 9:00 Welcome and Opening Remarks
9:00 – 12:30 Dr. Chaya Kulkarni
12:30 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 4:00 Maureen Dockendorf
10:00 – 10:30 Morning Nutrition Break
2:15 – 2:30 Afternoon Beverage Break

Sunday, October 21, 2018
8:00 – 9:00 Registration and Networking
9:00 – 12:30 Kristin Tenney-Blackwell – Pyramid Model Presentation
12:30 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 3:00 Workshop Series
10:15 – 10:45 Morning Nutrition Break


Professional Development
(All 3 days = 15.5 PD hours)

Friday October 19, 2018 Dr. Chaya Kulkarni and Barbara Reid (5.5 PD Hours)

Saturday, October 20, 2018 Dr. Chaya Kulkarni and Maureen Dockendorf (5.5 PD hours)

Sunday, October 21, 2018 includes the Pyramid Model Presentation and one workshop (4.5 PD hours)


Friday, October 19th ~ 9:15 – 12:30 & Saturday, October 20th ~ 9:00 – 12:30
Rosaria Centre, Multipurpose Room

Dr. Kulkarni will discuss infant and toddler mental health and social wellbeing from a clinical perspective on Friday and then from a more practical approach on Saturday..

Dr. Chaya Kulkarni is currently the Director of Infant Mental Health Promotion (IMHP) at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. IMHP is a community-based coalition of individuals and professional agencies dedicated to promoting optimal mental health outcomes for infants in the first three years of life. Dr. Kulkarni provides leadership to research, professional education and public awareness activities at IMHP. She is currently leading advocacy and training initiatives in areas such as child welfare including family courts, and community-based programs supporting families in their neighborhoods. She leads IMHP in the development and implementation of curricula and materials to support professionals working with families of young children.

Prior to joining IMHP, Dr. Kulkarni held positions as Vice President of Parent and Professional Education at Invest in Kids and as a Senior Policy Advisor at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. She is an instructor at York University in the Infant Mental Health Certificate Program, and at Seneca College in the Bachelor of Child Development program, and lectures frequently at professional development events. She currently sits on a number of committees within the health and social services sectors including the Children’s Programming Advisory Committee for TVO, Health Nexus – Healthy Baby Healthy Brain project, FRP Canada Advisory Committee, Metro Toronto Family Services Consortium, Self Regulation Working Group (SickKids), SickKids Continuing Professional Development Committee, and the Board of Directors for Family Day, one of the largest non-profit providers of child care in the GTA. Dr. Kulkarni co-authored Your Guide to Nurturing Parent Child Relationships.

She holds a B.A.A. from Ryerson University and obtained her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Education from the University of Toronto.

Saturday, October 20th ~ 1:30 – 4:00
Rosaria Centre, Multipurpose Room

The importance and impact of play in social emotional wellness using an interactive presentation format to demonstrate how Early Childhood Educators are able to support young children’s mental and social wellbeing..

Maureen Dockendorf is British Columbia’s newly appointed Superintendent of Early Years, a joint position shared between the Provincial Office for the Early Years and the Ministry of Education, with a strong focus of working with school districts to strengthen and build upon their work in the early years which will further support efforts under the BC Early Years Strategy.

Maureen has worked as a Teacher, SFU Faculty Associate, Principal and Assistant Superintendent and BC Ministry of Education Superintendent of Literacy and Numeracy at the Ministry of Education to support the redesign of curriculum and competency development within the context of the transformational change process in BC’s education system. She will continue to support this work from her new role. She is well-known for her work as a conference speaker, an educational author, facilitator, and staff development consultant. She also works closely with Me to We/Free the Children to coordinate BC educators’ volunteer experiences working with local communities to build schools in Kenya, Ecuador, and India.

Maureen is frequently called upon to provide advice on policy, process and practice in the realms of professional learning, collaborative practice, educational leadership, curriculum implementation and assessment. She has an unwavering commitment to public education and to success for all learners.

Friday, October 19th ~ 1:30 – 4:00
Rosaria Centre, Multipurpose Room

The Alberta Experience with the Pyramid Model

Barbara (Barb) Reid has worked in the field of supporting families and children with disabilities for over 25 years. Her professional practice is grounded in values of community inclusion and family centered philosophies. She provides leadership in best teaching practices for children with disabilities. For families, she supports their journey to envision a future for their children that integrates their hopes and dreams for an inclusive community life from childhood to adulthood. She is currently the Executive Director of the GRIT program (Getting Ready for Inclusion Today) in Alberta. GRIT is an exemplary, inclusive early childhood program for children with disabilities and their families. The program is a leader in applying current research to practice in three program streams: Inclusive Early Childhood Education, Specialized Services for Families, and ASAP (Access, Support and Participation) to strengthen adult capacity building for inclusive early learning and care programs (e.g. child care, preschool etc.) In addition, strategic planning, organizational change, implementation of research to practice, coaching, parent advocacy, collaborative partnerships, and community-based research are strong areas of interest and professional growth.

Barb’s passion and commitment has earned her the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award in education and the MacEwan University Distinguished Alumni Award for her continued contribution to inclusive communities.

Barb will offer her reflections and share the lessons learned from the Pyramid Model Approach to Inclusion Support in Alberta.

Sunday, October 21st ~ 9:00 – 12:30
Rosaria Centre, Multipurpose Room

An Introduction to the Pyramid Model and Challenging Behavior

The Pyramid Model is a conceptual framework of evidence-based practices for promoting young children’s healthy social and emotional development. During this interactive session, participants will gain a deeper understanding of the importance of healthy social and emotional development in young children and factors that influence behavior. Participants will learn about the Pyramid Model as a framework and how it can be used to promote healthy social and emotional skills in an effort to prevent challenging behavior.

Kristin Tenney-Blackwell, M.A., LLP, IMH-E, has been working with children, families and educators for over eighteen years and is passionate about promoting young children’s social and emotional well-being in an effort to support resiliency and readiness for school. In addition to her private practice, she has been active in providing consultation and guidance for organizations such as Vanderbilt University, Georgetown University, ZERO TO THREE, the Devereux Center for Resilient Children, Erikson Institute, Head Start, and Early Head Start. Her portfolio includes work in national and state level early childhood education and mental health initiatives, in addition to coaching, reflective supervision, training, resource development, research, and evaluation of early childhood projects. Kristin has supported national Pyramid Model efforts, as well, including state and community systems building and co-authoring the Infant and Toddler modules.

Please Join us for 1 of our 4 Workshops

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 ~ 1:30 – 3:00
Workshop A

A: Playing Through Trauma

Imagine a child playing with blocks, building them up, and flying pretend airplanes into the towers as they come crumbling down. What has the child learned? What are they discovering? How are they making sense of their world? Through play, children are able to discover meaning and work through traumatic life experiences. We know that play allows children the opportunity to experiment with emotions and express and release what can’t always be said with words. Using a trauma informed lens, this workshop will explore how early childhood educators can expand on play, create meaningful dialogue, and engage children in working through play that mimics their own experiences.


Emily Martinello has been working with NSCECE since the fall of 2012, first as a practicum advisor and instructor, and now as the Faculty Coordinator. She brings with her a background in Early Intervention, supporting families with young children with special needs. She came from Ontario to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in Child and Youth Study at Mount Saint Vincent University, and recently completed her Master of Arts in Child and Youth Study. Emily’s philosophy is that every family is doing the best they can with what they have and extends that same philosophy with learners.

Shannon Harrison has been working with young children since 1989 – in the classroom, as an administrator, and a consultant. Currently, she is an instructor, online coordinator, and the practicum coordinator at the Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education. Her favourite topics to teach are Behaviour Guidance and Infant/Toddler Care. Shannon has a Diploma in ECE, a B.BA in Business Administration, and a Certificate in Teaching Adults.

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 ~ 1:30 – 3:00
Workshop B

B: Lessons Learned: Facilitating the development of an environment to create a climate of wellness for Early Childhood Educators

In a sector dedicated first and foremost to the well-being of children, it often struggles to meet the emotional and physical well-being of its workforce. Needed is leadership that promotes and enriches both organizational health and individual well-being. During this session strategies to build the awareness and skills of early childhood leaders in supporting staff’s wellbeing through healthy program policies, practices, and relationships will be reviewed.


Karen Chandler is a Professor in the School of Early Childhood Education at George Brown College in the ECE and Leadership Programs. Her extensive experience includes working with children, families, and professionals in early childhood, mental health, education, and research environments. Through her work, her focus is on the development of leadership, social justice and the continuous learning of Early Childhood Educators and leaders. Throughout her career, she has been involved in the application of research to practice and reflecting on lessons learned for informing EC policy. Karen facilitates a Community of Practice for RECEs which enables her continuous awareness of successes and challenges faced by Early Childhood programs and professionals and she serves as an expert witness with the College of Early Childhood Educators. She is the author of numerous publications including Administering for Quality: Leadership and Collaboration of Canadian Early Childhood Programs, 6th edition (2018).

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 ~ 1:30 – 3:00
Workshop C

C: Is it ADHD – Other diagnoses as seen through the eyes of an occupational therapist

This presentation will look at other diagnoses that display in attention hyperactive and impulsivity and three rehabilitative concepts including brain development and how to rehabilitate the root cause of academic learning delays, sensory processing disorder and trauma will be highlighted. Basis movement patterns (reflexes) that help children will be discussed.


Marcia-Lisa (Lisa) Dennis has been an occupational therapist since 1999 working with a diverse clientele in four provinces. She has experience in community home-care with the geriatric population and spent four years in northern Labrador offering mental health and addictions services, school pediatric interventions, aboriginal youth-at-risk and inmates. She has worked with active military members suffering from PTSD, brain injuries and chronic pain.

In her current private practice in Halifax Lisa offers an innovative approach to deal with the root cause of learning difficulties to help children and adults suffering from concussion, ADHD/ADD, FASD, PTSD, Dyslexia, Autism, sensory processing disorder, etc. By using a systematic approach along with expertise in many different interventions from across the world, she can help clients improve neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change itself) to help restore or improve brain function. She is an “out of the box” thinker. Lisa holds a B.Sc. from McGill and an MSc OT from Dalhousie University.

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 ~ 1:30 – 3:00
Workshop D

D: The Therapeutic Benefits of “Facilitating” Play

Play is essential for children to develop physically, emotionally and socially. It allows children to problem solve; build self-esteem, confidence and social skills. Play serves as a language for children (Oaklander, 2007) and it can be a way to allow trusting relationships to develop. When we play with a child or group of children, are we facilitating or directing? Facilitating allows children to play in an imaginative way, whereas directing can stunt creativity and inhibit the natural benefits of play. This workshop will be delivered through first-hand kinaesthetic experiential learning. Both therapists use the Axline principles in their own practice and would like to present the most important tips to professionals. The benefits of the different aspects of the play therapy toolkit will also be explained and materials will be on hand for experimentation and play. These mediums have therapeutic properties and can easily be added to playrooms or classrooms. They allow curiosities, explorative and sensory needs to be met and can be cathartic for children when facilitated.


Chantal Piercy has worked with children who have attachment difficulties, autism, ADHD, ODD, conduct disorder, anxiety, depression, selective mutism, specific learning difficulties, moderate learning difficulties and severe, multiple and complex needs. She is a newly qualified Therapeutic Play Practitioner via the Post Graduate Certificate in Therapeutic Play Skills from the Academy of Play and Child Psychotherapy in the U.K and has a passion for inclusivity and facilitating children to build self-worth. Chantal holds a Post Graduate Certificates in both Education and Special Educational Needs Co-ordination with 7 years’ experience as an Educator of mainstream and special needs students. She is also a Lego Therapist currently studying to obtain a Masters in Play Therapy with Leeds Beckett University.

Maya Sloan is a Registered Counselling Therapist Candidate and Speech-Language Pathologist and has completed all three levels of the play therapy certification program with the Canadian Association of Play Therapy. In her private practice she predominately works with children using play therapy, who come to her for a variety of reasons, for example behaviour issues, history of sexual abuse, divorce, extreme tantrums, and autism. Maya is passionate about the therapeutic and developmental value of play and how to foster it in kids in this world saturated by electronics and short attention spans. She holds an M.Sc., S-LP (c) and also an M.Ed. (CCC).


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