Why we embrace atypical students
After celebrating our graduation last month we cannot help but be beyond proud of how far our students have come. From their first interviews at Avro to receiving acceptance letters from universities and colleges the growth we witness every year in our students is inspiring and rewarding. We're going to miss them like crazy.
So what does 'atypical learner' mean?
It's beyond just being different. Atypical learners are a large and diverse group of students who often share many traits and challenges as well as having their own individual styles. Like every child, no two are the same. We have students who are gifted, diagnosed or undiagnosed with high functioning autism, Asperger's or ADHD, and some suffering from depression, bullying or social anxiety. We believe these kids deserve every support and more at school.
What do they need to succeed?
No matter the challenges, these students share several common needs in order to succeed. All of these unique learners need space to be themselves without judgement, more understanding, flexibility, and fewer distractions. From there we add guidance and help them build rapport with a teaching team they can trust every day. We create a learning environment that works with them rather than force fitting a one-size fits all approach to education. And most importantly, they need parents who see and support them as the individuals they are.
Pull back on pressure and step up on support.
Working with our students is a daily balancing act. Thankfully it's both an innate and developed skill in our team. Stress, social and academic pressures can distract, derail and sometimes overwhelm our teens.
In a busy classroom of 25-30 kids, stresses are often unavoidable, and cause some kids to simply shut down, disengage and withdraw from learning. But in a classroom of 5 or 6 we can dramatically shift that dynamic and re-engage the student. We uncover their learning style to create individualized education plans and add 1-on-1 therapeutic supports whenever needed at the right pace for each student.
Approximately 1 in 66 children and youth are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Canada. Add the undiagnosed children and that number goes up. Schools must to do more to support these unique learners.
When you feel like you don't fit in. It's not you. You need to find your tribe.
For every teen, socialization and acceptance is key to their confidence, mental health and wellbeing. For teens on the spectrum and or struggling with anxiety or depression, finding peers that accept and support them can be difficult as they often mask their challenges in an effort to just fit in. We take great care in our unique tribe of students. With fewer external pressures, they see and accept other while developing the social bonds and lasting high school friendships on their own terms.
We learn so much from our kids every day. They teach us almost as much as we teach them. It's our mission as an alternative school is to be here to support teens with high-functioning autism and stop the stigma that gets in their way. Our team invests in working with each student along with their parents to create dynamic individualized learning plans and a safe environment where they can thrive.
Together, our 2022 graduates received over 30 different acceptance letters from the colleges and universities of their choice. These are the atypical results we are thrilled to celebrate.