A Learning and Program Structure Designed for Students with IEPs for Giftedness, Mental Health, and Dyslexia/Other LDs

Flexible Online Ontario Credit Courses with In Person Individual and Small Group Instruction

Starting in 2019, all Ontario Secondary School credit courses, as well as grades 7 & 8 language, math, and science will be offered via online courses. Work will be completed in school with Odyssey Heights teachers coaching each student. Students take two credit courses per term, plus three hours of French lessons per week for the school year. Students can work at their own pace - including working though a course at the same pace as one or more of their friends. Students have 10 months from the start date of their course to finish. We have found that our students need a high degree of flexibility in both attendance and pace of courses. For example, gifted girls with anxiety and depression need enrichment and the option to work at a faster pace in their courses, but they miss a significant number of school days due to mental health and medical/therapy appointments. This model was highly recommended by our wonderful Ministry of Education Secondary School inspector in fall 2018.

Example of a Student’s Ontario Secondary School Credit Course Schedule:

  1. Fall Term (September to December):

    1. Geography or History

    2. Math

    3. French credit (grade 9)/Alliance-Français DELF French courses (small group courses for all grades)

  2. Winter Term (January to March Break)

    1. Science

    2. Health for Life/Healthy Active Living Education

    3. French credit (grade 9)/Alliance-Français DELF French courses (small group courses for all grades)

  3. Spring Term (March Break to June)

    1. English

    2. Visual Art

    3. French credit (grade 9)/Alliance-Français DELF French courses (small group courses for all grades)

  4. Summer Term (July) *Summer Term is optional - one of the following options:

    1. Finish work from Winter and Spring term courses + Alliance-Français DELF French courses (small group courses for all grades)

    2. Civics or Careers half credit course + Alliance-Français DELF French courses (small group courses for all grades)

    3. Start an additional full credit course that will be finished in Fall Term or Fall and Winter Terms + Alliance-Français DELF French courses (small group courses for all grades)

Grades 7 & 8 Language, Math & Science courses are provided by Virtual Elementary School (VES). Grades 9-12 credit courses are provided by The Independent Learning Centre (ILC). Both VES and ILC courses adhere to Ontario Ministry of Education requirements with ILC courses covering all pathways to graduation with the OSSD. ILC courses are offered in English or French immersion, through an independent distance education model.  Student work in ILC courses are marked by ILC teachers with Odyssey Heights teachers as each student’s learning coach. Girls take two Ontario courses at at time which decreases anxiety, and allows for accelerated pacing for gifted students. This delivery model also allows grade 9s who have holes in their math education to take a grade 8 review course before starting grade 9 math.

Gifted & Talented

The structure and programs at Odyssey Heights are ideal for both gifted students (academic and/or artistic), and gifted students with other IEP needs (anxiety, LD, ADHD,…). The multiage Learning Communities facilitate working at higher grade levels in one or more subjects. Team teaching and a maximum in class  student to teacher ratio of 10:1  means more individual attention for all students. Project based learning allows all students to pursue their unique interests in depth. Micro-economy student-run enterprises - which are a core part of Montessori education and the OE3 program - allow gifted students opportunities to make their creative ideas a reality. 

Flexible Attendance & Curriculum for Student Actors, Models, Dancers, and Other Gifted Students With Professional Careers

A custom flexible attendance program is available for girls gifted in the arts who have professional careers as actors, models, dancers (including pre-professional training), and other performing artists. Having all the Ontario Credit courses offered online, and completed in school with Odyssey Heights teachers allows a high degree of flexibility in scheduling.


Anxiety, Depression, and Panic Disorder

Daily exercise, sufficient sleep, and a healthy diet are key factors in alleviating the symptoms of anxiety and depression. The late start at 10:30am with daily physical activity, and healthy meals eaten together family style, plus regular day and overnight trips to peaceful natural settings (including UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves) support these factors. 

Supports for students with anxiety and depression include: 

  • testing accommodations -

    • Additional time

    • Private/semi-private exam room

    • Breaks

    • “chunking” of larger tests/exams into sections

    • Scheduling accommodations

    • Use of technology

  • more frequent one-on-one contact with teachers,

  • daily mindfulness moments for every Odyssey Heights student

  • flexible deadlines for assignments,

  • a focus on physical, nature and outdoor based fitness activities

All teachers have Mental Health First Aid Certification. In addition, several child and family psychologists are our neighbours -  making attending counselling sessions during afternoon work periods or immediately after school very convenient. 

As academic success for all students in a community requires teamwork. all students must be receiving mental health care during the school year.

  • FAQ: Why is this a requirement - even for girls without demonstrated mental health support needs?

    • Adolescence is a time of great change and an increased need for emotional support. Seeing a counsellor or therapist helps avoid mental illness and/or identifies it early. Counsellors also support teens in developing strong communication, interpersonal, and intra-personal skills that will improve their success in post-secondary school and beyond.

    • The behaviours of students with depression, anxiety, and mental health needs that were not accessing mental health supports proved very disruptive to all students, had an extremely negative effect on learning and attendance for all girls this year, and delayed starting horseback riding in fall 2018 due to safety concerns.

  • For girls without depression, anxiety, or other ongoing mental health needs this is simply seeing a counsellor or therapist once a month.

  • Students with depression, anxiety, and/or other mental health needs must (at a minimum) be seeing a mental health professional at least twice a month* during the school year, and a psychiatrist once a term (or provide proof of being on a psychiatrist’s waitlist. The revised policy will be available in late spring, 2019.

    As our director and founding principal Ms. Elizabeth has overcome anxiety, PTSD and panic disorder, (and has not had a panic attack since January 2006), there is great support and empathy for girls with mental health needs, as well as a strong role model and advocate.

  • Students may access free, no health card required, immediate walk-in mental health supports at one of the two Skylark Health walk-in clinic locations near Eglinton and Wellesley Stations.

  • In addition, in school or at home nursing services (including mental health & nutrition) may be available through School Support Health Services (SSHS).

**If your child/teen is in crisis please (please) call 911 and/or go to your nearest emergency room. Skylark is not an emergency or crisis centre.

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Dyslexia, Other Learning Disabilities, & ADHD

An IEP is developed and implemented before each student with learning disabilities and/or ADHD starts her first year at Odyssey Heights School. IEPs are created with input from families, the student, past teachers, medical professionals and recent psychoeducational assessment. Ongoing and open dialog with families, the principal, medical and support professionals, and the student helps adjust to changing needs.

As we have a 1:1 iPad environment, all students have access to built-in text-to-speech and speech-to-text for all their school work. Audiobooks are available for almost all English and Language Arts novels and books. For students with dyslexia, reading materials can easily be converted to “Dyslexie” font - a special font created by and and for people with dyslexia that aids in reading text.

All students participate in the Learning Strategies POGO week at the beginning of the school year. This first full week in school (after the overnight OE3 trip to the Bruce Peninsula, focuses: on how to learn, study and organizational skills, and self-assessment of learning styles.