Parkland School has been in existence since 1960. Students with severe developmental disabilities, aged 5 to 19, are taught utilizing a comprehensive educational curriculum. The school is accredited by Alberta Education as a "Designated Special Education Private School"; school program outcomes and student progress are reported to, and monitored by, provincial authorities.
All student placements are direct referrals from regional public and separate school jurisdictions, social services, or child welfare authorities. Parkland School students are drawn from across Central Alberta and various Indigenous communities in the Canadian Arctic. The school incorporates a multi-disciplinary and holistic approach to learning that focuses on the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development of children with disabilities.
Student educational goals are incorporated into Individual Program Plans (IPP) that are consistent with Alberta Education guidelines. Parkland School has four main program areas: the Specialized Supports Program, the Regular School Program, the Augmentative Communication Program, and Technology Program.
Specialized Supports Program
Parkland School Specialized Supports Program provides education, life skills training and physical supports to students with multiple disabilities during the regular school term. The program addresses the speech, physical and occupational therapy, communication, behavioural, hearing, vision and medical needs of non-ambulatory children. Small class sizes and low student to staff ratios ensure that individualized programs are developed that recognize and respond to all unique student needs.
Regular School Program
The Regular School Program focuses on the basic concepts of education and developing essential life skills. Various classes promote student academic, non-academic, personal, and physical development. The Regular School Program is delivered both within Parkland School and in the community on a regular basis. Prioritized academic subjects include language, literacy, reading, mathematics, numeracy, fine motor skills, liberating technologies and the Gemiini speech, reading , self-help and socialization online program.
Non-academic subjects include home economics (snack program), physical education, gross motor skills, community awareness (shopping and recreation), music, sensory integration, snoezelen, pre-vocational training, and life skills. In addition to these daily program offerings, Parkland School also delivers a diverse array of special activities and events throughout the year. These include regular field trips, and special family events (Halloween, Christmas, and Graduation).
Augmentative Communications Program
The Parkland School Augmentative Communication Program uses iPads, technical talkers, laptops, Smart Boards and other low-tech devices and programming materials to develop communication skills for non-verbal, multi-dependent students. Communication is the highest priority at Parkland School.
Augmentative communication starts by introducing students to simple cause and effect. Students learn this simple principle and move on to making choices between buttons and toys. The realization of cause and effect and choice are empowering and intellectually stimulating. The child can now exercise control over certain elements in their environment. This progresses to a "yes/no" button, where students begin to express choice.
A child incrementally progresses through more options and choices, and the principles of communication are introduced; push a particular button to express a particular need or feeling. Eventually, alternate communication devices are introduced and mastered such as technical talkers and iPads. The Augmentative Communication Program also develops student skills with other cause and effect technologies such as power wheelchairs and "Ablenet" switches that can operate home electrical devices.
Parkland School has a strong commitment to technology-based learning. Computers, laptops, iPads and Smart Boards are utilized for multi-task learning experiences.
Liberating Technologies facilitate freedom and choice. Parkland CLASS recognizes this reality and has invested a great deal in incorporating technology into its school programs. The Augmentative Communication Program is an example of this commitment.
However, there are great benefits for children with disabilities when skills learned through school programs are transferred to non-school settings. Communication devices, technically based or otherwise, can be used at home and in the community. As children move into adulthood, these benefits are compounded. Skill development at an early age is critical to success as an adult. Parkland School's use of liberating technologies has proven to be highly effective in facilitating communication, mobility, and an individual's control of their own home environment.
Sometimes technology can provide other benefits as well. The Snoezelen Room, for example, is a unique application of technology that provides increased leisure, stress reduction, and scheduled relaxation. Snoezelen utilizes sensory stimulation through soft music, visual and tactile stimuli to create a very peaceful and relaxing environment. The effects are profound and include the reduction of stress, anxiety, and negative behaviours. This unique use of technology is particularly beneficial for non-verbal and multi-dependent children and adults.