Guest Blog Post by: Erin Plumb
Hello My Name Is…
So I am new to the blogging world. This will be my first ever post and as such I thought I would take the time to introduce myself to you. My name is Erin. I am an assistive technology trainer who works in a variety of places, including LDAWE, with a variety of age groups and disabilities. I have been an advocate for persons with disabilities for over 20 years. LDAWE asked me to create and facilitate a course for Adults withseveral years ago as Bev, our phenomenal Executive Director, and I share a passion for this under-serviced group.
What do I mean when I say under-serviced? Well, let me explain. Children within the public and separate boards have reasonable access to assessment, accommodation and funding for both. Young adults in either college or university have similarly comprehensive access. Adults by and large do NOT. That is not to say that parents and educators don’t struggle implementing reasonable and equitable accommodation; but, simply that adults have a couple extra hurdles.
An Unhappy Ending
Once upon a time, before EQAO testing, IPRC and IEP meetings; there was no standardized system that existed province wide. There was limited resources for exceptional children in terms of testing and accommodation. Special education existed as a separate program for only the most severely disabled children. Many learning disabilities (LD) had not even become widely know to educators and parents. Even today many LD’s are poorly understood and many difficulties persist due to the invisibility of the disability. Adults who attended schools during this time were most often referred to as poor students who were perhaps lazy, deviant, or intellectually stunted. Unfortunately this fairytale does not end with “they lived happily ever after” for those involved.
The Woes of the Many
Many of the adults I have met over the years have expressed fear and loathing as the most prevalent feelings associated with their school years. Many didn’t read well, had poor writings skills and were singled out for it. For many it has led to lower literacy, poor self esteem, and less employment opportunities. Many are chronically under or unemployed. Many end up on Ontario Works and ODSP without even the knowledge that they have rights much less how to stand up for themselves. Many who were either not diagnosed or misdiagnosed. Many who become frustrated, disillusioned with society, angry and isolated. The many are a growing group representing as much as 2.5% of the Canadian population.
The Vicious Cycle
The biggest problem for this group of “many”is access to funding and support. If they missed out on meaningful diagnosis they run the risk of being trapped in a vicious cycle. A diagnosis is required for any formal accommodation; however, without an understanding of strengths and weaknesses many adults don’t know what they need to succeed and have difficulty asking even for informal accommodations. Assessment is a pricey undertaking especially if you have a fixed or limited income. School or training without accommodation is difficult or impossible. Many adults also have profoundly negative feelings of school based on their experiences and inherently mistrust education. With limited education this population has limited employment opportunities. A lack of accommodation coupled with all the problems associated with poverty leads to difficulties retaining permanent employment. Rinse, lather, repeat. At least until utter the frustration and perceived futility of the exercise causes complete disengagement from the goal of success within the society.
Given the amount of barriers and the difficulties overcoming these barriers is there a functional solution? Can we as people of many different abilities devise an equation that is balanced? My writings on this blog will not likely solve all of these problems; however, I do have some ambitions and caveats.
Stuff that I will do:
- create a positive space for adults with LD to talk openly about their experiences and ideas
- try to shed some some light on the available community resources for this group
- create awareness of the needs of adults as distinct from those of children
- discuss possible solutions both high and low tech
- encourage society at large to embrace inclusivity and understanding
Stuff that I will NOT do:
- give specific advice to individual cases
- tolerate any hate speech or demeaning commentary towards any group of society regardless how angry/frustrated someone is with that group
- engage in an “us vs. them” mentality
I will be writing 9 more blogs throughout the year. It is my sincere desire to generate some discussion so that we can use the collective wisdom of our experiences and ideas for change to make a difference.
Did I mention I am new to blogging? I managed to post this before I wanted to, not figure out how to add tags, AND delete the title while doing so. So here’s hoping the edit will address some of those issues.