Challenge Lab Program | Liberating Technologies
Parkland School has been in existence since 1960. Students with severe developmental disabilities, aged 4 to19, are taught utilizing a comprehensive educational curriculum. The school is accredited by Alberta Learning as a "Private Designated Special Education School". As such, 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 or child welfare authorities. Parkland students are drawn from across Central Alberta and various aboriginal 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 disabled children.
Student educational goals are incorporated into Individual Program Plans (IPP) that are consistent with Alberta Learning guidelines. Parkland School has four main program areas: the MDH (Multi-dependent Handicapped) Program, the Regular School Program, the Augmentative Communication Program, and the Challenge Program.
The Parkland School MDH Program provides education, life skills training, and physical maintenance to multi-dependent handicapped students. The program addresses the speech, physical and occupational therapy, communication, behavioral, 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.
Multi-disciplinary teams of professionals are also accessible to Parkland students through the Calgary REACH Program (Regional Educational Assessment and Consultative Services for the Handicapped), the Central Alberta SHIP Program (Student Health Initiative Partners), and the Red Deer Regional Hospital's Pediatric Rehabilitation Program. These multi-disciplinary teams address a student's more complex needs and issues. Regular School Program
The Regular School Program focuses on the basic concepts of education and developing essential life skill. 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, reading, mathematics, and computer technologies.
Non-academic subjects include home economics (snack program), physical education, community awareness (shopping and recreation), music, 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, special family events (Halloween, Christmas, and Graduation) and an annual year-end camp experience where all Parkland School students participate. Augmentative Communications Program
The Parkland School Augmentative Communication Program uses computer systems and other technological devices to develop communication skills for non-verbal, multi-dependent students. Communication is the highest priority at Parkland School. If an individual cannot communicate their basic feelings and needs, their lives are frustrated and unfulfilled.
Augmentative communication starts by introducing students to simple cause and effect, push a button and a toy responds. 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.
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 hip-talkers and intro-takers. 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. Challenge Lab Program
The Parkland School Challenge Program uses computer technology to supplement regular academic classes thereby enhancing student capabilities in the areas of language, reading, and mathematics. Most Parkland students have an opportunity to participate in the Challenge Program. Computer assisted learning has proven to significantly enhance academic skill development. The Challenge Program also assists in the transfer of these academic skills into other school programs through training non-Challenge Program staff.
Parkland School has a strong commitment to computer assisted learning. The school regularly upgrades hardware, interactive devices, and adaptive keyboards. The program is also mindful of the need to acquire new computer software that is uniquely matched to the needs and skills of Parkland students. New hardware and software developments are identified through research and networking with other educational institutions, and through attendance at the international "Closing The Gap Conference". Liberating Technologies
Liberating technologies facilitate freedom and choice. Parkland CLASS recognizes this reality and has invested a great deal in incorporating technology into its school programs. Both the Challenge Program and Augmentative Communication Program are examples of this commitment.
However, there are great benefits for disabled children 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's use of liberating technologies have proven to be highly effective in facilitating communication, mobility, and an individual's control of their own home environment.
Sometimes technology can provided other benefits as well. The Snoezelen Room, for example, is a unique application of technology that provides increased leisure and relaxation. Snoezelen utilizes sensory stimulation through soft music, aroma therapy, and 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 behaviors. This unique use of technology is particularly beneficial for non-verbal and multi-dependant children and adults.