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Georgetown school expands learning disability program as demand grows

Written on August 21st, 2009

Students in Arrowsmith Program increasing in confidence, reading and writing levels

Halton Hills Christian School, formerly known as Georgetown District Christian School, has expanded its program for students who have learning disabilities for the 2009-10 school year.

Launched at Halton Hills last year with 20 students and two teachers, the Arrowsmith Program is based on the principle that the brain can change and develop new functions and roles through specific exercises.

The school has hired an educational assistant to provide additional support in the classroom, which has allowed for the expansion of the program to 22 students.

There is also a list of families wanting to join.

Principal Marianne Vangoor says area demographics are a key factor in the level of demand for the program. The fact that the Toronto Catholic District School Board announced the closure of its Arrowsmith Program in June of this year has had an impact on the amount of interested families as well.

Numbers for the program at Halton Hills are capped at 22 with no current plans to expand. Vangoor says balancing the number of students in the learning disability program with the number of students in the school is important for continuing to provide good quality education.

“We want to be able to do well at what we do at all levels,” says Vangoor, noting that all Arrowsmith students are integrated into regular classes as well, which has an impact on the teacher pupil ratios in those classes.

Those ratios are guided by school policy.

With the first year done and assessments on students recently completed, Vangoor says there is evidence of steady progress among the students.

It has also been exciting to observe and hear about the changes in students from family members, she says.

Vangoor notes that the increased confidence level of students in the program is especially encouraging to see.

“They’re excited about what’s happening and they’re holding their heads up.”

One student in particular who has struggled socially has made remarkable strides in becoming more at ease in conversing with people.

Other students have increased their reading levels by two grades and several who could only painfully write one or two words are now stringing together three and four sentences.

One Grade 6 student in the program who has been unable to grasp cursive writing, suddenly got it.

“It’s like the log-jam broke and he’s been writing ever since,” says Vangoor.

At Halton Hills the Arrowsmith Program is well integrated into the school with Arrowsmith students taking their classmates to the sessions for a day.

“We’ve done a lot of celebrating and there’s a real pride for what’s happening here,” says the principal.