New Heights Early Learning Services
An Innovative Program for Children with Autism and PDD
By Maureen Bennie
New Heights is a school that delivers a preschool/ECS program to children ages 2 Â½ to 5 Â½ years of age who have high functioning autism or PDD. Our children have difficulty expressing emotions and relating to other children, may talk or do the same thing over and over again, have difficulty making eye contact, and may at times appear worried for no reason. Our children have language comprehension and expressive language delays but are able to express basic needs and thoughts in words. Some of the children have a large vocabulary and use complete sentences but have difficulty carrying on conversations. They are strongly interested in activities involving numbers, letters, words, computers, drawings, and puzzles.
The New Heights program focuses on understanding and encouraging each childâ€™s strengths in learning and using these to improve the weaker areas. The main goal is to work with each family to enable their child to learn the skills necessary to enter a regular-stream school in Grade 1.
The program operates from September until June, five days per week, 2 Â½ hours each day. You can chose the morning or afternoon classes. Transportation can be provided through Handi Bus. The school is located in the Killarney area of southwest Calgary. Each childâ€™s program is funded primarily through Alberta Learning Program Unit Funding.
Class size is limited to six students. There is a qualified teacher and an educational aide present in the classroom daily. Every student has speech therapy with a speech pathologist twice a week, occupational therapy once a week, music therapy on Fridays, and computer time once a week with a computer specialist. There is a child psychologist also on staff available for consultation.
Parents are well informed of their childâ€™s program and daily advancements. A report is sent home everyday in your childâ€™s binder outlining what was covered and there is room for the parents to add comments, write about special activities and how the childâ€™s sleep was the night before. Individual Program Plans (IPPâ€™s) are done twice a year with all therapists who work with the child present. Parental input is included to help develop the IPPâ€™s. A monthly newsletter is sent home to keep parents abreast of school developments. There is also a parent meeting once every month to discuss topics that pertain to our children and to exchange ideas or just let off steam. The psychologist offers a coffee time for parents once a month during the day to talk about whatever the parentsâ€™ needs are.
New Heights is in its third year of operation. My son has been attending this incredible school since January of 2000 when he was 2 years, 11 months old. The improvement we have seen in him since he began New Heights is remarkable. Marc had ten words when he started the school. Now he has well over 200. We are seeing functional play at home, imaginary play, cooperation with his sister who also has PDD, fine and gross motor skill improvements, enjoyment of music, and expansion of preschool concepts. Our son canâ€™t wait to go to school everyday! We combine the New Heights Program with the Intensive Behavioral Intervention Program (IBI) and are seeing amazing results.
New Heights is a safe emotional climate where students can be themselves and develop life long living and learning skills. I hope to register my daughter in the fall of 2002 so that she can experience all that this wonderful school has to offer.
3504 – 26th. Ave. S.W.