As we roll into the 2016-2017 academic year, there are many incredible achievements and successes to reflect upon, and a number of up and coming initiatives we are excited to champion.
Our focus on supporting individuals with Learning Disabilities and associated disorders has never been so broad and wide-reaching. Beyond the burgeoning school population, the wrap-around programs and services offered through Community Services are continuing to expand and evolve in all areas: individual tutoring services, parent workshops, professional development courses, psycho-educational assessments, counselling, psychology group programs, Camp Amicus, and the new year-round recreation programming.
Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning (Benjamin Franklin)
Despite the great achievements of recent years, this is no time to stop. We are delighted to continue growing our collaborations between our School Program and Community Services, as well as strengthen our engagement in best practices for individuals with Learning Disabilities. As well, our work is built on a foundation of Self-Determination Theory. Self-Determination is based upon an understanding of one’s strengths and limitations, together with a belief in oneself as capable and effective. Self-determination skills, such as self-awareness, self-advocacy and self-regulation, are particularly valuable to foster empowerment and meaningful motivation in young adults with LD. Individuals with LD who report high-levels of self-determination are more likely to experience academic engagement, as well as postsecondary and workplace success.
In 2010 researchers from the University of Alberta completed a report for Alberta Education entitled: Exemplar Alberta Schools: A case study of Foothills Academy. The researchers identified factors in six key areas which contribute to the success of our school: Relationships with School Staff; Supporting Students with LD; Learning Resources; Teaching and Assessment Strategies; Supporting Learning at Home; and School Culture and Atmosphere. This report demonstrates the long-standing practices at Foothills Academy which are clearly aligned with Self-Determination Theory.
In addition to embedding self-determination principles in the work we already do with our students and clients, we are also launching several new initiatives which are based in Self-Determination Theory, including:
- The INSIDE/OUT Student Conference will provide our school students with the opportunities to attend a variety of sessions, to learn about their own learning needs and strengths, and to develop a clear understanding of strategies they can use to successfully thrive in school and in their social lives too. All students will be involved, and sessions will be targeted appropriately at each age group. Sessions will include issues relating to academics, self-regulation, mental health, and active sessions on healthy living, Not only will students increase understanding and awareness of themselves, they will also gain greater understanding, and empathy for, their peers.
- We are piloting a project partnership with the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), to be run every Tuesday afternoon from October to May during High School elective class. Twenty students will be participating in Adventures of Pursuing Post-Secondary Schooling (APPS) and this is an exclusive experience for Foothills Academy students. The program prepares students for the transition to any post-secondary institution, with courses focusing upon areas such as, understanding your abilities, advocacy, learning styles, collaborative learning, staying motivated, managing time, and choosing a program and making an action plan.
- We are offering a new weekly evening program through Community Services called Moving Forward to support individuals aged 18-25 in the Calgary area who have been diagnosed with LD &/or ADHD make a successful transition to adulthood. This Psychologist-led program will provide opportunities for connection with peers through recreation, psycho-education about their own strengths and weaknesses, and support for working towards goals for the future.
We will be continuing to work on our research projects, continuing with a focus upon Self-Determination Theory, and creating a developmental self-determination curriculum which we aim to share with the world at the International Learning Disabilities Association of America conference in Baltimore this February.
We also continue to collaborate with a wide variety of stakeholders as we are representatives at the Calgary & Area Regional Collaborative Service Delivery (RCSD) executive committee, the Calgary & Area LD & ADHD Network steering committee, the Alberta Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta (AISCA) board of directors, the Learning Disabilities Association of Alberta (LDAA) board of directors, and the Centre for ADHD Awareness Canada (CADDAC) board of directors. All of these endeavours support the depth and breadth of knowledge and connections that are crucial in order to steer Foothills Academy in the right direction.
Here’s to an innovative, exciting, and incredibly fulfilling year!
Mr. Simon Williams and Dr. Karen MacMillan