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'The need is immense': K-6 school for children with autism to open in Edmonton

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Edmonton will soon be home to a kindergarten to Grade 6 school exclusively for children with autism, Children's Autism Services of Edmonton (CASE) announced Thursday.

The group says it has secured land, donations and approvals to begin renovations on the building at 17456 102 Ave.

"A new school that is specialized for students with autism in Edmonton is going to change the landscape of services in this region," Terri Duncan of CASE told CTV News Edmonton.

"The kids are going to get the support that they need in the classroom."

She says the curriculum at the school will be tailored to each student.

"Some students will be able to follow a regular curriculum to graduation, and some will need to have a heavily modified curriculum."

It's not just the curriculum that will look different. Duncan says teaching styles will be different from a traditional school as well.

"We don't focus on rewards and punishment, we focus on relationships, and emotional regulation and keeping our kids regulated and ready to learn."

"Once we have those individual tools, we will potentially then be able to transfer those tools into their community school. So they may go back to their community school, or they may get a term of education in the specialist site."

Duncan says the school, which is set to open September 2024, will start small but they hope to grow to about 200 students.

"The need is immense," she said.

"There are a lot of students with a lot of needs. And we need to support those children that are really struggling … or the children who have the most challenging behaviours. And we're going to support all of those students in our school."

The school has been made possible by millions of dollars in donations.

"About half of the cost of the building was donated. So it's a large donation, in the neighbourhood of around $3 million."

Entrepreneur Jim Jiwani is one of the major donors and the former owner of the building that will be renovated into the school.

"[CASE] came and approached us about why they're looking to purchase a school, and they needed some support in order for them to be able to make this happen," he said.

"After hearing all the stories and everything that they're going through, it just really touched my heart. I couldn't say no."

Jiwani says he's looking forward to seeing his old building repurposed.

"It is very touching. It is something I'm really looking forward to. And I want to continue to support the school."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson 

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