In addition to the expert teaching staff we have in the classrooms at Foothills, students have access to additional supports to enhance and maximize their learning potential. There are supports from Educational Assistants, IPPs and classroom design that are available to all students within Foothills Academy.
Each classroom has a skilled Educational Assistant to help support each student with their learning and social needs. Educational Assistants provide a greater opportunity for 1:1 work and group work, allowing for the implementation of more learning strategies by the classroom teacher. Assistants can support further remedial instruction of foundational skills and they are crucial to developing strong relationships in every class. Having access to Educational Assistants in the classroom brings the staff to student ratio to 1:6 or 1:7.
Individual Program Plans
Every student with a Learning Disability must be supported by an effective and relevant Individualized Program Plan (IPP) which focuses upon the student’s needs, strengths and participation. Parental input is important when creating their child’s IPP beginning with IPP goal setting meetings in September. All students are central to the ownership their IPPs and it is a living document to which they should continually refer. By taking ownership of setting and meeting their academic goals, students have an exceptional rate of success. Beyond academics, goals often include organization, time management, social skills and elements of Executive Functioning. Based on a student-strength model, not only does this aid with students achieving success in their courses, but it also helps to establish lifelong skills for future education programs and the workplace.
Since individuals with Learning Disabilities and co-existing disorders tend to struggle with self-regulation, we know this is important to consider in our everyday work with our students at Foothills Academy. Self-regulation can be viewed across three different domains: cognitively (their ability to focus on academic tasks), behaviourally (their ability to control their actions), and emotionally (their ability to control their emotions). Students are not able to engage in school work consistently and meaningfully if they are dysregulated. Therefore, the school uses the Zones of Regulation program in order to help students develop self-awareness of their regulatory states, and to identify strategies that work well for them (e.g., “regulation breaks”). The consistent use of the Zones language allows us to develop a common understanding and ability to communicate amongst staff and students across the entire school. Additionally, Mindfulness plays an important role in many classrooms to help student self-regulation.
Classroom Design & Technology
Classrooms at Foothills provide environments for student well-being, active learning and supporting individualized needs. Each class is balanced with a Universal Design for Learning so that all students have the opportunity to thrive in their learning and flourish socially and emotionally. The environment in the classrooms also provides active furniture to aid with regulation, flexible working spaces for collaboration, quiet areas and opportunities for movement.
Rooms are equipped with Smartboards and all students are assigned an electronic device such as an iPad, Chromebook or laptop. The device is provided by the school and there are no added technology fees for families. iPads are deployed in the younger grades as they have a wide range of appropriately levelled learning applications. Chromebooks are used throughout the middle years of school due to their excellent compatibility with our school-wide use of Google Classroom. In high school, students have the experience to know what works best for them and there is a greater degree of choice in their device based upon proven experience of success with the device or technology. Where students require greater technological supports, further Assistive Technologies are provided
Compensation versus Remediation
Foothills Academy supports students through both remedial instruction (which targets improving the foundational skills a student needs to master) and compensatory approaches (which teaches strategies the student can use to build on their strengths and work around their weaknesses). Remedial instruction addresses skills deficits while compensatory approaches help students reach their full potential. Remedial approaches include a focus on repetition, breaking tasks down into smaller chunks and re-teaching skills. Compensatory approaches or accommodations may utilize Assistive Technology such as audiobooks, text-to-speech software and speech recognition software that converts a student’s own words to text. Our goal is to find the right balance between remediation and compensatory approaches for each student.
Some students require specialized and individualized supports such as Psychology Services, Assistive Technology, Occupational Therapy or Speech-Language Therapy. These services are provided on an as-needed basis and are explored more in-depth through the links above.