Frequently Asked Questions
What is the PALS model?
PALS Autism School is a specialized and dedicated elementary and secondary school in British Columbia for children and adolescents with autism. We provide year-round schooling and programming using effective and scientifically validated instruction, based on the principles of Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA). This is the most effective, scientifically validated instruction to maximize the development of each student’s communication, language, social, academic and life/independence skills.
How are the programs structured?
All children at PALS undergo a thorough assessment of language, learning and life skills to determine their current functional level and skills. Each child is provided with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) that follows the B.C. Education Curriculum.
Students are placed into the class that best fits their current level of ability to participate in group instruction. Functional communication and peer interaction is encouraged through small group instruction of subjects including social studies, science, the arts and physical education. Students are taught core skills through individualized tactics that reward good behaviours and eventually bring students to a level where they can practice these skills independently. The core skills are then reinforced intermittently to ensure the students generalize and maintain them, building a solid foundation for life.
Each student is guaranteed at least 1.5 hours of one-to-one instruction each day, targeting skills that are more challenging to learn in a group format.
Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Intensive Behaviour Intervention are available to every student to support their Individualized Education Plan and development at PALS Autism School.
What will my child learn?
PALS Autism School teaches students communication, social skills, play skills, life skills, and functional academics. We break learning objectives down into small, achievable components. We prompt students, as necessary, to respond independently, and we reinforce approximations towards target responses. Prompts and reinforcement are then faded systematically as students demonstrate mastery of learning objectives. Generalization of skills across different people, places, and environments are built in to all objectives, and once a skill is considered mastered, it is maintained with a systematic probing schedule.
Who teaches at PALS Autism School?
Our full-time staff consist of two BC certified Classroom Teachers working alongside fifteen Educational Instructors. The Educational Instructors position is like a hybrid of a Behaviour Interventionist and a Special Education Assistant. They are supervised by one full-time ABA Program Manager who is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst and one full-time ABA Program Assistant Manager who is a Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst. The school is overseen by the Head of School who is a BC Teacher certificate holder and also a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst.
How are staff trained?
PALS staff receive intensive hands-on-training at the beginning of their employment. As they demonstrate competency with teaching procedures and behavioural protocols, they are then provided with brief performance reviews every 6-8 weeks, and more formal performance reviews annually. New skills are taught using Behaviour Skills Training (i.e., trainer provides written and verbal instructions, trainer models the procedure, staff rehearses the procedure, trainer gives staff feedback). All staff meet for weekly clinic meetings to review updates to student programming, and to practice American Sign Language. There are 2-3 full-day professional development opportunities each year, as well as 6-7 half-day professional development opportunities each year which take place during after school hours so the students can still come to school those days. Classroom Teachers attend workshops on literacy, math, and executive functioning skills as they become available in the educational community. All staff and families have 24/7 access to an online subscription of courses in autism, ABA, and special education.
Are staff medically trained?
PALS staff are trained and overseen by School Nursing Support Services to administer emergency medication as mandated by medical alerts. A Public Health Nurse also visits the school regularly to provide support to PALS staff and students as needed.
How many students attend PALS Autism School?
PALS currently has 18 students enrolled. At this time, that is the maximum capacity for the resources available.
What is the ratio of staff to students?
PALS Autism School provides schooling and programming year-round with a 2:3 instructor to student ratio. For some students requiring more support, we provide a 1:1 ratio to ensure their needs are met.
Do students receive a diploma once they finish the program?
Graduates of PALS Autism School receive a School Completion Certificate from the Ministry of Education.
Does a child need to be verbal to attend?
Are other special needs children included in the PALS program?
PALS Autism School focuses on educating students with autism; however, the principles of ABA can be applied to any individual requiring a more systematic approach to learning. PALS will intake a student who has a different disability as long as they qualify for the Level 2 Special Education Grant from the Ministry of Education.
Are there speech-language, occupational or physical therapists on staff or available for consultation?
At present, the Mary and Gordon Christopher Foundation has donated funds to provide Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) consultation for all students. Occupational Therapy (OT) consultation is provided on a regular basis and staff at PALS implement recommendations and strategies of OT and SLP throughout the day.
What facilities exist at the school?
PALS has a range of facilities onsite including individual and group learning rooms, spaces for children with a personal safety issue, a full kitchen with laundry, an ABA resource room, a meeting room, a gymnasium with specialized play equipment and a unique outdoor play structure.
What are the school hours?
The PALS school day is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in addition to an hour of intensive intervention from 2 p.m to 3 p.m. after school. This hour is billed monthly and families can use their autism funding for reimbursement. PALS is a year round school with a two week summer break at the end of August, one week off for spring break, two weeks off for Christmas and one week off at the end of June.
What if I can’t drop off or pick up my child according to school hours?
Before school (8 a.m. to 9 a.m.) and after school (3 p.m. 5:30 p.m.) care is optional and available at PALS for an extra cost. Please contact us for further details.
What are the entry requirements for new students?
Students are assessed based on their needs, current functioning level and spaces available at the school to meet that student’s needs.
How do I apply?
Please visit our admission page.
Is there a waiting list?
There is a growing waiting list for attendance at PALS Autism School. If you would like to be added to the waiting list, please send a completed intake application. Once a spot is available, we look through the list to identify the child that would fit best in that grouping. This selection is based on age and functioning level of the child.
How much does the program cost?
Please see our tuition and fees page for details.
How do I follow my child’s progress?
To apply the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis to our students’ education plan, we ask that parents participate in monitoring their child’s behavior at home and review a detailed analysis of their behaviour and activity at school to help ensure the student’s success and progress at PALS. We provide an online portal for parents to easily provide and access this information at home.