Youth Helping Youth

Guest Blog Post by: Bev Clarke, Executive Director of LDAWE

As LDAWE programs and services grow, youth involvement… and more importantly, the contribution of youth in our community continues to grow!

Haunted House FundraiserOn October 31, 2015, Adam Wong and DECA students from Sandwich Secondary School will be hosting Haunted House at 1245 Minto, in Lasalle. Months of planning, building, marketing, recruiting actors, and requesting donations goes into creating the Haunted House. This year, Tim Hortons will be providing free hot chocolate and Bull’s Eye Pizza will be donating pizza to be sold by the slice. All those entering the house are asked to give a donation. Proceeds from the event will benefit LDAWE’s Youth Recreation Program.

Recently, youth assisted in a number of ways to ensure the success of our recent Instruments of Change Conference and Gala. Youth sat on the planning committee and assisted with set up and clean up. Madeline Doornaert, a Walkerville Secondary School student, coordinated the musical entertainment and performed. Talented secondary school students (WCCA performers under the direction of Patti Hopper, the Micelli Twins, Lauren Elliott, Natalie Culmone, Georgia Rose) performed throughout the evening.

University of Windsor students enrolled in the Odette School of Business’ Management and Organizational Life Course are required to engage in a fundraising activity to benefit a local charity. LDAWE has been fortunate to receive donations from eight groups of students in the past couple of years.

This year, St. Clair College students in the Educational Support Program Club have selected LDAWE as the recipient of funds raised by the Club.

And last, but not least, the LDAWE has been fortunate to have the voice of a youth on the Board of Directors, as the Youth Consumer Representative. Rachel Baker and Donny Wilcox previously contributed to the Board, and currently, Lucas Lavoie represents youth at the Board table.

Youth Helping YouthLDAWE encourages youth involvement in a variety of ways, as program participants, volunteers, employees, secondary school co-op placements, and as Board members. LDAWE would like to thank all of the youth who have demonstrated a commitment to building a community partnerships that supports the work of the Association and ultimately assists in improving the availability of services for individuals with learning disabilities and ADHD in Windsor-Essex County.

A Time for Change… Student-Led Individual Education Plans

Guest Blog Post by: Bev Clarke, Executive Director of LDAWE

Self-AdvocacyHaving reviewed many Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that indicate the student should develop better self-advocacy skills, I am always curious to know how the student will learn to be an effective self-advocate.   Whose responsibility is it to explain the student’s learning disability; the legislation that outlines his/her rights; the services / supports / accommodations available; relevant language; and ultimately the policies and procedures to be followed, when engaging in self-advocacy? Is the psychologist that diagnoses, the parent, the teacher, the school administrator, or outside agency such as the Learning Disabilities Association responsible for teaching the student to be an effective self-advocate?

How do we measure whether the student is becoming a better self-advocate?  Is it when the student requests the accommodations and support outlined in the IEP that was prepared for student by an educator, in consultation with a parent?  Is it when the student is able to work independently in the classroom?  Is it when the student is able to get what they need in classroom without demonstrating or causing frustration? Or… is it when they are able to effectively contribute and direct their own IEP?  The Ontario Government’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) A Resource Guide (2004) indicates that principals are required to ensure that those students over 16 years of age must be consulted in the development of their IEP.  The Guide further indicates, “that any student for whom an IEP is being developed should be consulted to the degree possible.”  So, when and how does this begin?

I am the "I" in IEPI have had many conversations with parents, educators, other professionals, who suggest that the child may be too young to understand his/her learning disability; however, when speaking to very young children, they are clearly able to identify their strengths, and more specifically their differences, and while I wouldn’t expect a primary student to be able to say “I have central auditory processing disorder, which makes it difficult for me to prioritize noise in the classroom, so it would be very helpful to me to have access to an FM system,”  I would expect a primary student to be able to say, “I can’t pay attention when there is too much noise.”  They may not know all the educational and disability lingo and possible solutions to addressing their learning needs, but they recognize their differences very early.  Self-advocacy instruction and support should begin early.

The United Nations adopted the motto Nothing About Us, Without Us for International Day of Disabled Persons in 2004.  Observance of the Day was intended “to focus on the active involvement of persons with disabilities in the planning of strategies and policies that affect their lives.” The motto relies on the principle of participation and has been associated with the global movement for individuals with disabilities to achieve full participation and equalization.  I would argue that direct instruction and support is required for many students with learning disabilities to have full participation in the development of their IEPs and to develop the skills and acquire the knowledge to become effective self-advocates.

Student Led IEPThe IEP is arguably the most important document developed regarding the student with exceptionalities at school. The IEP meeting provides an opportunity to discuss critical issues and make decisions regarding specific accommodations and support services.  Creating the IEP without the student or with only token involvement teaches the student that his or voice is not important (Hawbaker, 2007); it is important for students with learning disabilities to not only be the receiver, but the author of their accommodations (McCarthy, 2007) and observing the student’s ability to meaningfully contribute to the IEP provides the school team with a way to measure the effectiveness of the self-advocacy instruction.  The goal is for students with learning disabilities to move from others leading their learning to students leading their own learning, with IEP meetings providing an opportunity to practice their decision making skills and gradually increasing autonomy to promote increased self-responsibility (Connor, 2012).

Students cannot be expected to know appropriate meeting protocol, systems, policies and procedures, and all the lingo the surrounds issues associated with education, disability, and legislation without instruction; however, they can be taught this information, with support and instruction from parents, educators, professionals, and local agencies. Developing effective self-advocacy skills as an elementary and secondary school student prepares the student to successfully advocate for themselves in a post-secondary environment, in the workplace, and in the community.

References:

Connor, D. (2012). Helping students with disabilities transition to college – 21 tips for students with LD and/or ADHD. Teaching Exceptional Children. 44, 5, 16-25.

Hawbaker, B. (2007) Student-led IEP meetings: Planning and implementation strategies – A case story. Teaching Exceptional Children Plus. 3, 5.

McCarthy, D. (2007). Teaching self-advocacy to students with disabilities. About Campus. 12, 5, 10-16. doi:10.1002/abc.225.

What YOUR Post-Secondary Teachers Need to Know

Guest Blog Post by: Kathy Hansen, B.Sc., M.Ed.

College just aheadSeptember has come and gone and we are starting to feel the rhythm of school days again.  It takes a month or so every year for my family to get into the routines—routines that help us feel more organized, calmer and even safer.   Every year the transition back to school comes with its ups and downs, but some transitions are bigger than others.  The transition to college is one I am most familiar with.  Every year first year college students venture into a new chapter of their lives.  For students with learning disabilities (and their parents), the transition to college can be even more significant than it is for their peers without LD.  (See the previous post Smooth Moves)

I want to share some experiences and thoughts, based on my research, about community college faculty, students with learning disabilities, and best practices for success.  Students with learning disabilities make up a larger portion of post-secondary students than ever before – in both Canadian and US universities and community colleges.  In Ontario, a growing number of young adults with LD are attending university, but an even greater portion is attending community college.  Over 8000 students with learning disabilities attended Ontario’s 24 community colleges in 2009-2010 and the number continues to grow. Community colleges pride themselves on being accessible, hands-on learning institutions with teachers and professors that provide student-centred learning environments.  Student Services Office personnel provide support for students with learning and other disabilities when it comes to transitioning to college, accessing accommodations, and ongoing counseling support.  One major difference between high school and post-secondary education is that students must seek out support, disclose their disability, and advocate for themselves.  For many students, the process begins in high school with a supported transition; high school teachers, parents, the student and the post-secondary support team work together to facilitate the transition.

College StudentsMy research has focused on community college faculty attitudes toward and their preparedness for teaching students with learning disabilities.  Faculty attitudes and practices contribute to the success or failure of students with learning disabilities in postsecondary settings.  In my research, I developed a valid and reliable instrument called the Faculty Preparedness Questionnaire to measure preparedness for teaching students with LD.  Preparedness was defined as knowledge plus attitude.  The questionnaire addressed themes such as knowledge of disability legislation, knowledge about LD and use of resources, attitudes towards students with LD, and their potential for success at the college level. By asking community college teachers about their knowledge, attitude and practices, I wanted to understand more about their perceptions of their preparedness for teaching the growing number of students with LD in community college.  I found that community college faculty had generally positive attitudes towards, and self-rated knowledge about learning disabilities.   However, despite their positive attitudes, college instructors expressed many myths and misconceptions about LD.  The biggest gaps were in the understanding of the definition of learning disabilities and in best practices for supporting student needs.  Instructors lacked knowledge about what a learning disability is and what it is not (i.e. It is not due to poor teaching, low IQ or cultural differences).  Instructors were more knowledgeable about the legal requirement of providing the recommended accommodations, but not about what they could do in the classroom to help students with LD to be more successful.  Instructors also expressed concern about students with LD being able to perform work in the real job market.

College StudentsTherefore the task remains—to improve knowledge about LD— understanding the definition, the learning needs of students, and how individuals with LD can succeed in college level learning and in employment situations.  If you are a student with LD attending post-secondary school (or know someone that is), self-advocacy can be a major factor for success.  Don’t assume your instructors or professors know about your learning disability.  As there are different types, and accommodations and learning needs are different, you can play a big role in informing your teachers about LD.  Meet your instructors in person during their office hours and share information about your strengths and learning needs, and your motivation for success in your chosen academic and career paths.  Ask them if they would like more information and send them some information about LD, or share a link such as LDAO.  Don’t be afraid to use your accommodations. Remember that receiving accommodations is your right and do not give you and unfair advantage, but rather level the playing field.  Sometimes students with LD attempt post-secondary education without accommodations, but so often this does not work out and the student ends up not doing well in the courses.  Better to use your accommodations, discuss with your instructors and follow-up when you get your tests or assignments back.  Share your successes so that more people come to understand that a learning disability does not limit an individual.

Accessible education depends on educators having the knowledge and attitudes needed to reduce barriers and provide an inclusive learning environment.  The good news is that college educators in my research indicated positive attitudes toward students with LD; however, knowledge is an equally important contributor to understanding best practices for teaching students with LD.  If you have other ideas on how to disseminate information about LD and the successes of post-secondary students in their academic studies and careers please share them on this blog!

 

References

Hansen, K. (2013) College instructors’ preparedness to teach students with learning disabilities. University of Western Ontario – Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository  http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/etd/1244/

Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SSC SAST; 2011). Opening the door: Reducing Barriers to post-secondary education in Canadahttp://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/SEN/Committee/411/soci/rep/rep06dec11-e.pdf

 

Kathy Hansen, B.Sc., M.Ed.

Professor, Educational Support Program

St. Clair College of Applied Arts & Technology

Windsor, Ontario

khansen@stclaircollege.ca

http://www.stclaircollege.ca

ADHD Awareness Day 2014

LDAWE Guest Blog Post by: Dr. Sharon Burey

ADHD Awareness Day on Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where: Caboto Club

Time: 9am -1pm

Guest Speaker: Dr. Sam Chang, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Moderator: Dr. Sharon Burey, Behavioural Pediatrician

Cost: FREE

Register at: www.adhdwindsor.com  or by calling Dr. Sharon Burey’s office at 519-919-9988

Target audience: Parents, teachers, social workers, health professionals, child and youth workers, caregivers, etc.

 

Hello all,

A new school year is upon us and it is time to focus on creating an environment for our children and adolescents, so that they can be successful at school, home and in social environments.

This year’s ADHD Awareness Day has a phenomenal guest speaker in Dr. Sam Chang.

Dr. Sam Chang, is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist and Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine. He is also an accredited faculty with the Reach Institute of New York. He is the Medical Director of the Adolescent Addictions Program and admits to the Young Adult Program Adolescent Psychiatry Unit, both located at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary. He is also the Provincial Adolescent Psychiatric Consultant for the Alberta Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC); does numerous clinical trials; and continues to see new consultations in his office. (Excerpt from CAADRA 2011 conference materials.)

Dr. Chang will discuss ADHD in the context of substance abuse. Following his presentation there will be a panel of community service providers. At that time, we will all find out more about existing and new services that are available in our community.

We are truly looking forward to your presence and participation. Please invite your friends and family.

I recently saw an article from the American Academy of Pediatricians that I believe as a community we need to pay attention to. It relates to the well being of our pre-adolescent and adolescent children. As we focus on creating environments that foster the success of our children, this is one concrete step that we could take as a community. I am talking about SLEEP. Sleep is the foundation of how we heal, cope with life’s daily challenges, focus and pay attention. The American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for a later school start for adolescents.

I believe that as a community, we can do this. It will take the voice of parents and teachers and professionals to achieve this – but it can be done! This is something that Parent Advisory Councils could bring forward to school boards.

 

Let Them Sleep

AAP Recommends Delaying Start Times of Middle and High Schools to Combat Teen Sleep Deprivation

AAP LogoStudies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. – and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day.

In a new policy statement published online Aug. 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends middle and high schools delay the start of class to 8:30 a.m. or later. Doing so will align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.

Click here to read more.

AAP Policy Statement

 

See you on October 16, 2014 at the Caboto Club.

Sincerely,

Sharon Burey MD FRCPC MPLc

ADHD Awareness Windsor
Consultant Behavioural Pediatrician
Adjunct Professor Pediatrics, Windsor Program Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry Western University

Self Advocacy

Guest Blog Post by: Shelley Lavoie 

Self-Advocacy

Often, persons who live with learning differences have also, unfortunately, learned to be afraid to self-identify, for a variety of different reasons. This may cause them not to seek help, help that could alter their lives in so many positive ways. Persons dealing with learning differences are generally of average or above average (and sometimes genius level) intelligence and frequently have a very high level of “learned creativity.” This means they may possess a wide array of creative methods and techniques designed to hide their learning differences. The good news is that self-advocacy can be the key both to success and getting the things they need and want in life.  Some helpful sites for Self- Advocacy are:

http://www.edac.org.au/letmespeak/html/selfadvocacy.html

http://canlearnsociety.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/LC_Self-Advocacy_N2.pdf

 

But as people open up and embrace the challenges of asking for help, they may then encounter another hurdle: where do you turn for specific types of help? Below is a list of resources in Windsor/Essex County where you can seek information and assistance related to a variety of learning differences:

http://www.ldawe.ca/

http://www.ldawe.ca/resources.php

http://www.ccrw.org/resources/resources-for-people-with-learning-disabilities/

Only Words

Guest Blog Post by: Sophie Rutter

Language

In a way, we live in a world of words. From a very early age, we begin to categorize things using language labels. As young children, we practise using words to describe objects, and how they are the same and different from other objects. As we get older, we continue to use words to describe the way things “are”: the colours of the rainbow are_____, there is a force called gravity, I am an introvert. We use language to express ideas, convey emotions, form theories…we use it to understand one another and ourselves, to describe identities. The question is – do we give words the power to create our identities?

I think all of us with learning disabilities/ADHD are familiar with labels. Some of us have so many that keeping them all straight in our little working memories is quite the challenge! We are used to saying “I have LD/AHD”, but what do these words really mean to us? What are the consequences of looking to language to tell us about ourselves?

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe that diagnosis can be useful. It can lead to an exploration of the many different ways we learn, and help us to be better learners and teachers. It can help us to understand ourselves and each other. Diagnosis is, for many students, a gateway to access resources like accommodations and technology. However, we need to be careful about how much power we give to the words we stick to one another.

One potential problem is that we can begin to perceive all behaviour in the context of a diagnosis, and to treat others (or ourselves) differently because of it. When a teacher reads a report that identifies a child as dyslexic, might they be less likely to challenge that student in English class? When a parent becomes used to the idea that their son or daughter is hyperactive, might they begin to see their child’s energetic demeanour as pathological? When a student is told that they have a disability, can a tragic self-fulfilling prophecy result? It is important to remember that diagnoses do not describe individual people; they are categories that people fit into in different ways and to different extents. We need to be consciously aware of what our expectations are, and how those might be affecting the way we see people.

Another danger lies in that we may begin to see diagnoses as absolute things. “ADHD” is not some kind of solid, tangible object that exists within us. It is not something that we “have” in the way that you might have, say, a viral infection. When we act and think in particular ways that are consistent with our diagnoses, it is not because of the diagnosis. Terms like “disorder of written expression” or “dyscalculia” help to describe, not define, our learning. Even more importantly, ADHD and LD are not pathological in the way that an infection is. Having the flu under any circumstances is going to make you miserable. Having a disability under the right circumstances (understanding, accommodation) can lead to great success.

Words are not reality, nor do they necessarily even describe it – they conceptualize it. We are essentially free to make sense of our world however we like. Categorizing with words is one way to understand things and even to understand each other, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that we are the creators of our categories. I think that one of my professors expressed the idea nicely when he said: “Make science your b*tch” (not the other way around). The universe does not tell us that we have disabilities; we tell ourselves that we do. We lack ability only according to our definitions and measurements of ability. We need to recognize that the labels we use are nothing more than our best attempts to understand little bits and pieces of one another.

We have a responsibility to explain these things in a way that young children can understand, so that they can have the courage to push themselves. No one should be made to feel that their potential has aleady been decided. I think one of the goals listed on every students’s IEP should be: “Gain understanding of both the usefulness and limitations of the language labels used in diagnostic report”. There is no point in teaching the 8-year-old with a math disability strategies for multiplying numbers if we are at the same time sending the message that this student is incapable of learning them. It should be a direct goal of special education, rather than an added bonus, for a child to learn what “disability” means, and what it does not mean.

We owe it to ourselves to give people greater power than words. We need to use labels to better understand who we are, rather than to predict who we will become. When we do that, we turn language into one of the most powerful tools we have.

We are not the terms we use to explain ourselves. We are people: multi-faceted, ever-changing, invaluable. And when you realize that the labels attached to your name belong more to the world than they do to you, only one word can capture that feeling: indescribable.

Issues facing Adult Literacy Learners

Guest Blog Post by: Shelley Lavoie

Common Issues facing Adults with Learning Disabilities.

Life can be challenging for everyone. If you are an adult with a learning disability, daily routines can become problematic and lead to extra frustrations. Lack of academic skill acquisition causes issues well into adulthood. For those who struggle with low literacy levels, life can seem confusing and overwhelming on a daily basis. For those that don’t struggle, it is hard to comprehend the daily difficulties it creates. The act of buying groceries becomes an embarrassing ordeal in the grocery store. Imagine buying your groceries by the pictures on the product, or never trying anything because you couldn’t read the label, or mistakenly buying cottage cheese instead of sour cream.

As a result of the unsuccessful literacy attainment, people start to believe they are stupid, and develop a low self-concept which is reinforced many times a day. This may lead anxiety and emotional issues! Many of the adults I work with had very painful experiences during the school years and few successes which leave emotional scars. I think this is the toughest part of my job as Adult Literacy Instructor! Breaking those self-deprecating thoughts and helping people realize and focus on their strengths after years of feeling inadequate is a daily struggle. With the introduction of learning strategies and assistive technology to people who have never used them, people realize that there is help and that they are able to complete tasks independently. This is my favourite part of my job, when people begin to see new possibilities for themselves!

Lack of effective communication and social skills look differently in adulthood than they do in children and adolescents, but they definitely do persist into adulthood. These issues may lead to problems personally and in a work environment.

Organization is another issue that persists into adulthood. It is critical that people develop routines, implement strategies and practice the skills they need in order to be successful in their endeavors, whatever they may be.

The Windsor Public Library Adult Literacy Program supports adults who want to improve their reading, writing, and numeracy skills to achieve goals of Employment, further education and training, or independence. If you have any questions regarding Adult Literacy Program at the Windsor Public Library, I can be reached at 519-255-6770 x 4444.

Remember, it is never too late to find success! Celebrate your uniqueness and find a way that works for you!