The Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre is York Region’s only school for autism and we believe that all students have the potential to learn. By combining the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis with the Ontario Curriculum, The Lighthouse gives students with autism the opportunity to access their true academic potential.

The Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre is a registered private school for autism with the Ministry of Ontario and all teachers are Ontario Certified Teachers in good standing.  At The Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre each student has an individual learning plan that is created with input from the family, based on initial academic and behavioural assessments, and is updated daily as students grow and change. The Lighthouse uses evidence-based practices such as direct instruction, functional behaviour assessments, function-derived treatment plans, anxiety management, and preventative antecedent reinforcement schedules.

school for autism

Our Evidence-Based Practices

Functional Behaviour Assessments

When working with students in a classroom environment where they are constantly being challenged academically, it is common for problem behaviours to arise. In order to correct problem behaviour we must first determine the environmental function. We use evidence based assessments such as indirect interviewing, descriptive assessments, and in some cases, functional analysis to determine why a student may be exhibiting a challenging behaviour. Once an accurate hypothesis has been developed, treatment plans can be created to help the student get back on track in the classroom environment.

Preventative Antecedent Strategies

In order to avoid the development of problem behaviours in the first place our team at The Lighthouse uses antecedent strategies, which minimize problem behaviours in the classroom. Reinforcement schedules and group contingency rewards encourage our students to works hard through out the day without behaviours. If a student understands how exhibiting appropriate behaviour can benefit them throughout the day (praise from teachers, tokens to earn reinforcement, and group prizes) they will be more likely show positive behaviour and be able focus on academic goals.

Academic Programs & The Ontario Curriculum

All of our teachers at The Lighthouse create short-term and long-term academic goals based on the level a student is at according to The Ontario Curriculum, in any given subject. This means that although a student may be reading at a grade 2 level, they could be working on grade 6 math, and each lesson would be planned for accordingly. Other academic programs we use to support goals from The Ontario Curriculum include Raz-Kids, JUMP Math, and Writing Without Tears.

The Lighthouse also understands the importance of incorporating the arts into our daily teaching methods. At our school for autism, we use drama, dance, music, and visual arts as a catalyst to teach other curriculum subjects. Additionally, each spring, The Lighthouse creates and preforms an original spring play for parents and other members of the community.

Function-Derived Interventions

At the Lighthouse, we derive behavioural treatment from results of functional behaviour assessments. Treatment for problem behaviours must relate directly to why the child is doing what they are doing in order for it to be effective. In our classroom environment we are able to implement behavioural interventions naturally throughout the day as teachers and instructor therapists work collaboratively collect data and provide treatment integrity.

Direct Instruction

Some of the direct instruction programs used at Lighthouse include Reasoning & Writing, Connecting Math Concepts, and Spelling & Reading Mastery. These programs compliment material from The Ontario Curriculum and help our students to access its material in a way that they understand.

Click this box for more information on Direct Instruction

What is Direct Instruction?

“Direct Instruction (DI) is a model for teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. It is based on the theory that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can greatly improve and accelerate learning.”

Why does Direct Instruction work?

There are four main features of direct instruction that ensure students learn faster and more efficiently than other program or technique available: at the Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre we focus on three of those;

1. Students are placed in instruction at their skill level
When students begin the program, each student is tested to find out which skills they have already mastered and which ones they need to work on. From this, students are grouped together with other students needing to work on the same skills. These groups are organized by the level of the program that is appropriate for students, rather than the grade level the students are in.

2. The program’s structure is designed to ensure mastery of the content
The program is organized so that skills are introduced gradually, giving children a chance to learn those skills and apply them before being required to learn another new set of skills. Only 10% of each lesson is new material. The remaining 90% of each lesson’s content is review and application of skills students have already learned but need practice with in order to master. Skills and concepts are taught in isolation and then integrated with other skills into more sophisticated, higher-level applications. All details of instruction are controlled to minimize the chance of students’ misinterpreting the information being taught and to maximize the reinforcing effect of instruction.

3. Instruction is modified to accommodate each student’s rate of learning
A particularly wonderful part about DI is that students are retaught or accelerated at the rate at which they learn. If they need more practice with a specific skill, teachers can provide the additional instruction within the program to ensure students master the skill. Conversely, if a student is easily acquiring the new skills and needs to advance to the next level, students can be moved to a new placement so that they may continue adding to the skills they already possess.”

The information above was taken directly from the National Institute for Direct Instruction: The Gold Standard in Direct Instruction. Their website is www.nifdi.org

Anxiety Management

As many students with autism suffer from anxiety at some level The Lighthouse has incorporated anxiety programs into our daily teachings. These programs include 5-Point scales, Zones of Regulation and Super-Flex.  These programs help students to recognize their own anxiety and give them tools to help manage it.

Consistent Daily schedules

At the Lighthouse we understand that the world around children with Autism can appear very chaotic and unpredictable. In many cases, children with Autism have very little control over their environment; one of the best ways to foster a positive learning environment is to allow our children the opportunity to process their schedule, which remains fairly consistent throughout the week. Communicating the schedule to our students is be done by using visual schedules, electronic program on a device such as an iPad, or simply by writing it on the board for students who can read. Providing the children an opportunity to review their schedule allows them to be prepared for their day, and process the transitions that will occur.

Our Classrooms

Kindergarten

Half days, 3 days a week

This program was developed for students to access the Ontario Kindergarten Curriculum while also targeting the development of classroom readiness and group instruction skills. Many students in this program also receive ABA therapy at The Lighthouse, so their program goals are intertwined between therapy and school, which helps to generalize the skills they are learning in both environments. This program runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday between the hours of 9:00 am and 12:00pm.
The Lighthouse also understands the importance of incorporating the arts into our daily teaching methods. We use drama, dance, music, and visual arts as a catalyst to teach other curriculum subjects. Additionally, each spring, The Lighthouse creates and preforms an original spring play for parents and other members of the community.

Primary

Full days, 5 days a week

This program has been developed for those students who are classroom ready and working at an academic level between kindergarten and grade 3, in any given subject, according to The Ontario Curriculum. Lessons and programs are created to help students develop reading, writing, and mathematic skills, which prepare students to access material in higher grades, as well as various other subjects like science and social studies. This program runs Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm.

Junior

Full days, 5 days a week

This program has been developed for those students who are classroom ready and working at an academic level between grade 3 and grade 8, in any given subject, according to The Ontario Curriculum. Lessons and programs are created to help develop skills across all areas of the curriculum (math, language, social studies, science, the arts, and physical education) as well as to increase independence in the classroom. This program runs Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm.

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