cognitive developmental disabilities

The Calgary Board of Education offers a range of programming and levels of support for students identified with mild-to-severe cognitive developmental disabilities. 

1. Inclusion in the student’s residential district designated school

  • Registered with same age peers
  • Individual Program Plans identify the accommodations, modifications and supports provided for the student
  • Strategists for the Developmentally Challenged (special education teachers with experience in this area) assist schools in modifying programs, providing opportunities for inclusion within the school environment and arranging for adaptive equipment and therapeutic supports when applicable

2. Placement in an Exceptional Needs class in a residential district designated school

  • Exceptional Needs classes are located in residential district schools in CBE Areas I to V and may or may not be the student’s designated residential district school.
  • Each Exceptional Needs Program has a placement process that is facilitated by an Exceptional Needs specialist in collaboration with schools housing the special class and parents.
  • Individual Program Plans identify the accommodations, modifications and supports provided for each student.
  • See program descriptions below.

3. Placement in a Special Setting

The Calgary Board of Education has two special settings for students with severe cognitive delays and other identified needs requiring a specialized setting.

  • Emily Follensbee School provides educational programs for students aged 2 1/2 to 14 years of age with multiple, complex learning needs. The goal of the program is the development of student’s self-help skills, environmental knowledge, community awareness, basic conceptual skills, and communication skills. The curriculum includes developmental and sensory-based activities designed to facilitate growth of the whole child. Unique points include:
    • Ungraded classes utilizing Individual Program Plans for programming.
    • LPN support for medical/health needs
    • Has specialized equipment that supports the development of communication, mobility, and daily living skills.
    • Utilizes support from an educational support team (REACH) including: physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech/language pathology, educational consultation - vision, education consultation - deaf and hard of hearing and psychology.
    • Low student-to-staff ratio within the school.

  • Christine Meikle School provides educational programs for secondary school-age students with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities and/or complex learning, medical, and emotional needs.  The program helps students develop skills and attitudes necessary to become successful members of the community. Programming components include: functional academics, work experience, activities of daily living, adaptive physical education, fine arts, assistive technology, augmemtative communication and sensory motor development. Unique points include:
    • A variety of specialized programs
    • Individualized programming (IPPs)
    • Full-time nursing support (LPN)
    • Access to REACH - an educational support team
    • Activities that support work experience
    • Low student-to-staff ratio within the school.

programs for students with Exceptional Needs

PLP (Paced Learning Program)

The Paced Learning Program meets the needs of students in Divisions II through IV who have been identified with a Mild Cognitive Disability according to the Alberta Education definition. These students exhibit below average cognitive abilities and experience significant difficulty with academic subjects. Their social/adaptive behaviours are considerably less developed than those of their peers. These students benefit from direct, paced instruction, which emphasizes basic literacy, numeracy, daily living and communication skills at the elementary level and appropriate life and work skills at the secondary level.

TASC – Teaching of Attitude, Social Skills and Communication (Elementary)

The TASC program is for elementary school aged students with severe cognitive and developmental disabilities. The goals of the TASC program are the development of students’ self-help skills, environmental knowledge, community awareness, basic conceptual skills, and communication skills. Unique points include: 

  • Individualized programming (IPP’s)
  • Developmental and sensory-based activities designed to facilitate growth of the whole child
  • Accommodations may include the use of assistive technology, augmentative communication systems, and individual and small group instruction
  • Integration is encouraged when possible 
  • Low student-to-staff ratio (generally 2:1)
  • Classroom support may include a speech language pathologist, occupational therapist and/or physical therapist

SKILL (Social Knowledge, Independent Living and Language) Elementary

The Social Knowledge, Independent Living, and Language (SKILL) program is for elementary school aged students with moderate cognitive disabilities. The goals of the SKILL program are the development of student’s functional academic skills, communication skills, social skills, and community awareness. A modified curriculum is implemented based on the individual needs of each student. The modified curriculum includes academic, developmental, and sensory-based activities designed to facilitate growth of the whole child. Instructional accommodations may include the use of assistive technology, augmentative communication systems, and individual and small group instruction. Integration within the school community is encouraged when possible.

Generally, there are 8 to 10 students in each class. Program staff includes one teacher and one to two education assistants, depending on the needs of the students.

ACCESS (Attitude, Community Competence, Elements of Academic Curriculum, Social Skills) Secondary

The ACCESS program is for secondary age students with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities.  The goal of the ACCESS program is to prepare students for transition to adult life in the community.  The curriculum includes development of communication skills, functional language arts and mathematics skills, social skills, community awareness, and pre-vocational abilities.

Unique points include:

  • Individualized programming (IPP’s)
  • Integration is encouraged when possible. 
  • Curriculum is modified
  • Instructional accommodations may include the use of assistive technology, augmentative communication systems, and individual and small group instruction
  • Low student to staff ratio (generally 5:1)
  • Classroom support  may include consultative occupational therapy services

ALP (Adapted Learning Program) Secondary

The ALP program is for secondary age students with mild to moderate cognitive disabilities and mild adaptive delays.  The goal of the ALP program is to provide students with supported vocational opportunities and integration with community school students.  The curriculum includes the development of literacy, numeracy, and communication skills with inclusion in complementary subjects, clubs, sports, and special events as appropriate.  At the high school level, CBE has a partnership with the Vecova to support work experience placements and transition to the adult world.  Unique points include:

  • Individualized programming (IPP’s)
  • Curriculum is modified
  • Instructional accommodations may include direct, paced instruction and the use of assistive technology. 
  • Low student-to-staff ratio (generally 5:1)
  • Classroom support  may include consultative occupational therapy services

CSSI (Communication, Sensory and Social Interaction Program)

Communication, Sensory and Social Interaction Program (CSSI) - Grades 1 - 6

Communication, Sensory and Social Interaction Program (CSSI) is a program for elementary school age children who have moderate to severe cognitive disabilities with accompanying severe, chronic and maladaptive behaviours. Most of the students in this program have been diagnosed within the autistic spectrum. Communication development, sensory modulation, and pro-social behaviour are focus areas of the program within the general curriculum of personal self-help skills, functional conceptual skills, and environmental and community awareness. Classroom support may include a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist or psychologist.

Communication, Sensory and Social Interaction Program (CSSI) - Grades 7 - 9

This program is for junior high aged students who have moderate to severe cognitive disabilities and often engage in socially inappropriate behaviours.  Most of the students in this program have been diagnosed within the autism spectrum.  In addition, the students require support in: communication, responding to sensory stimuli in their environment, functional academics and personal care.

Instructional accommodations may include the use of assistive technology, augmentative communication systems and small group instruction.  Integration within the school community is encouraged when possible.

Generally, the ratio of students to staff is 2 to 1.  Program staff includes one full-time teacher and two education assistants.  Classroom support from the Regional, Education, Assessment and Consultation Services (REACH) team may include a speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist or psychologist.


» For more information you may contact the Learning Services Department.

» Standards for Special Education (June 2004), Alberta Education

» Do you have questions about supporting your student with exceptional needs? Please visit Alberta Education's Special Education Resources for Parents web page.

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Last Modified: September 12, 2012