The Azrieli Foundation aims to open the doors to opportunity for all. We help our grantee partners advance their work and make a difference in their communities. 

The neurodivergent community is often overlooked and lacks opportunities. We feel strongly about supporting neurodivergent individuals and working with innovative, forward-thinking organizations to provide enriching opportunities and high-quality services to this equally deserving population group. 

Giant Steps, a private school in Montreal for students aged four to 21 with autism spectrum disorder, is a great example. The school uses best practices to give its students the extra attention and supports they require. 

Until recently, the major challenge of Giant Steps was space — the school could not accommodate the demand for its high- quality educational services. Now, with a $5 million donation from the Azrieli Foundation, a new centre of excellence is being created to allow for higher enrollment, additional services and novel programming. 

Giant Steps prides itself on research and innovation. Its advanced teaching techniques help students feel safe, comfortable and connected. Its motto, while simple in theory, is all-encompassing: “Inclusion 365.” The school aims to exemplify inclusion and bring inclusivity into surrounding communities and workplaces. 

The new, groundbreaking centre of excellence will be a large, well-equipped space. It will include a living lab for research observations and discovery in settings where autistic students feel at ease. Genuine behaviours will result in more accurate findings, sparking discoveries that can benefit the larger neurodivergent community. 

The exceptional work at Giant Steps extends beyond classroom and lab settings. It offers work readiness programs and transition support from education to employment. It is a Quebec partner of the national Ready, Willing and Able (RWA) employment program, which matches employers with autistic employees. 

Credit: Giant Steps

At the age of 21, neurodivergent students age out of the education system, often leaving without the skills they need to successfully enter the mainstream labour market. Through its own internal programs, as well as partnerships with Loblaw Companies Limited, St. Hubert and Fairmont Hotels, Giant Steps aims to better prepare and support autistic individuals for employment and educate employers about the benefits of diversified teams. 

In a sector where individuals often do not receive the services and supports they need to thrive, Giant Steps is filling the gap. And the Azrieli Foundation is proud to help make a difference in so many lives.