Montreal’s Summit School has been educating individuals with developmental disabilities for over 50 years. Over that time its student-first approach has led to unique and innovative teaching methods. As educational establishments struggle with how to integrate individuals with intellectual and behavior challenges into regular school, Summit offers a different path.
The wide variety of communication, behavioral and intellectual challenges faced by students have led to innovative ways of structuring the school’s programming. With diagnosis as diverse as autism, Down syndrome, ADHD, and anxiety disorders, putting together classrooms and curriculums that work, is a challenge. Contrary to some educational philosophies, Summit does not group the students by diagnosis. Instead it relies on more subjective criteria, taking into account age, personality types, functioning level, and social abilities.
Summit classrooms have approximately twelve students with one teacher and one teaching assistant. The placement of a student in a particular class is a very important decision, one that is made with input from teachers, psychologists and educational consultants. The school creates classes that are dynamic and allow students a chance to develop socially and academically. But the school also understands that within classes, students may be at different levels in certain areas. So part of a student’s weekly schedule incorporates team-teaching, where students leave their classes and form groups with students from other classes who are at a similar level in a certain subject.
This approach allows for each student to be challenged at their own, personal level. However, it also means that students are continually evaluated to chart their progress and ensure they are in the right groups for their individual development.
The school is divided into seven programs. Each has its own objectives and criteria, each program is supervised by educational consultants and taught by dedicated teachers and valuable assistants. Each student has an individualized plan that suits his or her needs. The school does not offer a high school leaving diploma. Instead its' goal is to prepare the students for the world and to lay the foundation to allow them to enjoy as much independence as possible. At age 21, students have the opportunity to obtain Ministry diplomas to certify completion of the WOTP or Challenges program.
The Preschool program is developed in accordance with the MELS guidelines and is focused on providing young children with experiences that allow them to increase their understanding of the world, to build their knowledge and to become acquainted with the various subject areas of elementary school. It enables 4-6 year olds with intellectual and developmental disabilities to develop psychomotor, emotional, social, language, cognitive and methodological competencies related to self-knowledge, life in society and communication. The program recognizes the varied levels of autonomy of each child, their world of play and life experiences, linking learning to developing skills.
Modified Primary School Program
The program provides students with the opportunity to develop competencies which will help them to better understand the world in which they live, construct their own personal identity, and interact in a variety of situations. It encourages students to explore and understand the world around them, use their resources, and make connections between their learning and real life. The curriculum aims to help students take their place in society by familiarizing them with basic social knowledge and values; thus giving them the tools they need to play a constructive role as citizens and develop their own world view while enhancing their sense of responsibility.
Competency-based Approach to Social Participation Primary/Secondary Program
The CASP program is for students between the ages of 6-15. It seeks to educate and socialize students. It provides them with qualifications based on their needs and abilities, so that they are able to succeed and reach their full potential. The program focuses on developing five competencies; Communication, Using Information Available in the Environment, Interacting with People within the Community, Acting Methodically, and Acting in a Safe Manner. Subjects taught to strengthen these competencies include English Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Physical Education and Health, Arts Education, French as a Second Language, and Life and Society.
Modified Secondary Cycle 1 Program
The program provides students with a high school experience. The program is modified to accommodate for the students’ varied academic levels, rate of learning and required support. Students participate in a fully individualized academic day in accordance with the goals set out in their Individualized Education Plan. Our curriculum relies on “high interest / low vocabulary” texts, as well as teacher designed programs. Social skills, family life education, life skills and artistic creativity are also emphasized. Although our students are following a “modified” secondary 1 program, they do not receive credits towards a high school leaving certificate. Our goal is for our students to work towards their academic potential, develop autonomy, self-advocacy and employment skills.
Post Secondary Programs
The educational approach proposed in the CHALLENGES program is designed to favour the social integration of our students. The curriculum has two main sections: basic subjects and social integration.
Subjects are geared for increasing social interactions and communication, language skills and pre-work training. These include basic academic skills, cooking, time management, physical education, science, leisure skills, and creative arts. The opportunity to participate in vocational type activities such as simple clerical duties, industrial packaging and a cafeteria cooking program is also offered.
Another large component of his program is Community Awareness. Our outings encourage social interaction, physical exercise, and hands on learning. Overall, a well-rounded curriculum is offered, all while fostering peer interactions and positive social skills.Work Oriented Training Program
The Work-Oriented Training Path is designed for students who are at least 15 years old and who are still working at the pre high school level of English language arts and Mathematics. . The Work Oriented Training Path (W.O.T.P.) prepares the student for a gradual transition from school to work by offering opportunities to develop specific academic skills, solid life skills, and concrete workskills and work habits. Upon successful completion of the program an official M.E.L.S. certificate in “Pre-Work Training” is awarded to the student.