Staff and students are pictured at the Comox Valley Learning Centre in Courtenay.

Unique kids have a learning facility all their own

New school breaks down barriers for special needs students

  • Feb. 4, 2015 2:00 p.m.

Scott Stanfield

Record Staff

A new program in Courtenay is supporting children and youth who have complex, neuro-developmental disabilities such as autism and fetal alcohol syndrome.

The Comox Valley Learning Centre — a branch of the Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization (NUKO) — opened last year at 280 Second St., where the Laurel Lodge seniors facility used to operate.

It supports nine students from seven to 19 years old. The program is at capacity, in keeping with its 3:1 student-to-staff ratio that allows a tailored approach to learning.

“There’s definitely the need in the community for more students,” said Lea Silver, NUKO’s external relations co-ordinator. “At the moment we don’t have seats available but we encourage anyone who is interested in the program to contact us. If we want more students we need to hire another staff member.”

The centre contains an exercise room — complete with a trampoline donated by the Courtenay firehall — as well as a quiet room.

The program offers life skills training, academics, computer and outdoor activities, and speech therapy.

“The style of learning that a 3:1 ratio allows for is really something unique,” Silver said. “Most of our students at both of our programs are not able to attend even some other alternative programs, just because of the type or severity of their barriers. It can be difficult for them even to be working in a different space that doesn’t have the same type of support. Pretty much all of our students need a constant level of supervision. It can all collapse in a moment for our students.

“There are very, very few programs that are available for our families.”

NUKO is able to operate thanks to the generosity of the community.

The Comox Valley Learning Centre is seeking financial support and donations of craft supplies, desks, furniture and electronics.

Tax receipts are available upon request.

For more information call 250-871-8288, or email


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