Penticton Centre for Exceptional Learning

MISSION STATEMENT Our non-profit learning centre will support, educate, and challenge students with high-functioning autism by augmenting BC Ministry of Education curriculum with life skills and social skills in an understanding and caring sensory-sensitive facility. Highly qualified specialists will implement individualized lesson plans based on current best practices and principles. VISION STATEMENT Every student living with high-functioning autism in the South Okanagan has the opportunity to achieve his or her fullest potential by attaining an individualized education in a safe space designed to prepare him or her for life.

Our Impact Why We Exist

"Hi Frank,

I just wanted to reply to say I am so ridiculously happy with our experience of Excel so far! As the sole parent and financial support and chauffeur and caregiver and everything else for John Doe, it is such a gift to me to have a program that inspires such joy and excitement and positivity in my child, while also providing such flexibility and kindness and understanding to me!  Thanks to all of you for all you are doing.  Please share this with the whole staff at Excel.

Warmly, Jane Doe"

"Hi Francis,

We are so thankful for all you do!!  You are truly a gift from God because now our son is safe and less anxious etc. etc.  And safe happy kid means happy sane parents!  

Thank you!"

Our Story What We Do

We are offer a different option to children (and their parents) who live with high-functioning autism.  Many children who live with high-function are over-stimulated by the bright lights, sounds, and people in large brick-and-mortar schools.  We offer an educational alternative in a calm and quiet centre.  By reducing anxiety and sensory-overload, our students are better regulated and are better able to learn.  Our Learning Coaches focus on self-regulation, social skills, executive function skills and life skills by implementing evidence-based programs in small group settings.

Our goal is to keep and support our local South Okanagan families who have been touched by High Functioning Autism: not only have we kept families here, four families have moved to Penticton so that their children could enroll in our programming.

We currently have seventeen students who range from grade one to grade eleven (although we are able to offer support from Kindergarten through high school graduation).  The students at our centre are taught by Certified B.C. Teachers, Education Assistants, and Behaviour Interventionists following prescribed Ministry of Education curriculum.  Students also take part in structured social skills training (such as "PEERS" and "Social Thinking" programs), and life skills programming (such as how to budget/shop for/create meals, how to plan out/take public transit, and the "Be Safe" program which teaches ASD youth how to safely deal with police).  

Our Programs How We Do It

The Centre has been designed in a sensory-sensitive fashion, taking into account sounds, sights, textures, and aromas. We have seven small classrooms, two sensory rooms, a "bubble pool" (ball pit), a climbing dome, a gym with a climbing wall, a student lounge complete with a foosball table and couches, a kitchen, an art space, two meeting rooms, and a cozy library. Different spaces allow for one-on-one instruction, group work, or self-regulation. Each student's work space is personalized based on needs and preference. Our students are offered flexibility and choices so that they may self-regulate and are in turn better able to focus on learning and being socially appropriate.

We are partnered with the North Island Distance Education School (, who provides the Ministry of Education curriculum. Our person-centered planning model ensures we focus on our students' preferences, interests, needs and strengths while making individual lesson plans. We spend our mornings focusing on academics, with breaks built in for self-regulation. To further enrich hands-on learning we incorporate field trips to local area businesses, parks and recreation facilities. For example, we offer the students exposure to experiences such as hippo-therapy, yoga, Tae Kwondo, the symphony, and Stand Up Paddle-boarding.

Following evidence-based practices, we implement programs such as "Incredible Flexible You", "Super Flex", "The Zones of Regulation", "PEERS" and "Social Stories". We use visual schedules and Time Timers to reduce anxiety and difficult transitions. Students take part in a token economy to instantly reward good behaviour. Some of the programs naturally blend into everything we do, whereas others are the focus of our afternoons.


How We Work:

·         Compassion and patience are pre-requisites.

·         Listening is a good way to start a conversation.

·         We do things the ethical way because it’s the only way.

·         We treat every director, employee, student, family, and consultant as a hard-working human being who wants to feel appreciated and respected.

·         We prefer not to work with bullies—inside and outside our walls.

·         We are always looking ahead, reading ahead, thinking ahead.

What We Believe:

·         We believe that being different is more than OK.

·         We believe in focusing on strengths, not deficits.

·         We believe in teaching our students to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

·         We believe that all work and no play never works.

·         We believe that big ideas don’t happen without hard work and an open mind.

·         We believe in flexibility and creativity; we prefer not to engage in power struggles.

·         We believe that the smartest ideas can come from the dumbest questions.

·         We respect human diversity, including but not limited to sexual and gender diversity, religious and cultural diversity, and ethnic diversity.

How We Act:

·         We say hello in the hallways.

·         We all make the coffee and empty the garbage.

·         We are helpful and kind.

·         We are not afraid of change.

·         We love learning.

·         We encourage laughter, but never at someone’s expense.

·         We know that some rules cannot be broken; the rest are negotiable.

What You Can Do

In order to enrich our students' education and community connections we welcome and encourage members of the community to share a special skill or interest. We are always happy to host special visitors or take our students on field trips in the community. We also gladly accept donations of books and science equipment.


Carrie Ferguson
Executive Director
Charitable Number: 806687182RR0001

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Finance & Governance