It all began with a Penticton mother looking to improve the learning experience for her 11-year-old child with autism who was being bullied at the time.
But when Carrie Ferguson learned that the closest facility was in Kelowna, she decided to open one herself.
“We needed to find a safer environment for him that was really more caring and understanding to all of his little autistic quirks,” said Ferguson.
The Penticton Centre for Exceptional Learning opened last September for students of all grades with high-functioning autism.
The learning centre follows the provincial curriculum and each student learns at their own pace. Ferguson said some students are working towards their Dogwood Diploma or Evergreen Diploma.
The facility also incorporates teaching social skills because Ferguson said people with autism struggle with reading facial cues.
“It comes very naturally to us, when we see someone frowning it probably means they’re angry. But the kiddos might not pick up on that,” she explained.
“That’s where a lot of the social problems happen. That’s why they have a hard time making friends.”
Parents have already noticed their children are making progress.
“He’s come a long way. He has a good sense of humour and gets sarcasm,” said parent Jo-Ann Apolzer.
When the centre opened in September, 10 students were enrolled but a waitlist started to grow.
This summer, expansion is underway to build more classrooms to accommodate up to 21 students.