Exposure to arts education can provide benefits for all types of learners – and teachers of neurodiverse students have seen this first-hand.
Now, Montreal’s Summit School is gaining a new arts centre for neurodiverse students to explore artistic mediums for creativity and self-expression. With an 84-square-metre dance studio, an art gallery, and production facilities for music, film, television and web content, the centre will benefit the students – and fill research gaps to develop verifiable best practices in this area.
Summit School, which operates on three campuses in the Montreal area, has a 60-year history as a supportive learning environment for neurodiverse people. When it launched a campaign in 2019 to open its new arts centre, the Azrieli Foundation came on board as the lead donor.
“All the success we’ve had with our arts programs has come from providing our students with a venue to express themselves,” says Jesse Heffring, Summit’s Media and Events Specialist. “As professionals, we are there to listen, support and amplify their voices.”
For graduate Samuel Lewis, who is autistic, the arts were a catalyst.
“The theatre program gave me a platform to express myself through my talent,” says Lewis, who is now studying film at Montreal’s John Abbott College and plans to find a career in the arts. “It motivated me to not only pursue theatre, but to find the will to try out different things in the world.”
The centre will add a new dimension to Summit School’s offerings. Says Heffring: “We see this as a space that will allow a new generation of neurodiverse youth to discover who they are and define their place in the world.”