Next Steps

Six graduates determinedly looking forward.

High school graduates with learning disabilities who are contemplating the next chapter in their academic careers should start learning about and preparing for that transition as early as possible. Programs like the CUSP Program can help.

There is in many ways a “disconnect” between high school and university which can make the transition to post-secondary that much harder. The secondary and post-secondary education systems are two very different systems that have evolved in very different ways, which means that students are often surprised by and unprepared for many aspects of the brave new world they finds themselves in after they leave high school. Beyond that, students with disabilities will discover differences in how their disability needs to be documented, how their accommodations are accessed, and in the expectation that they will take on a more active role in their own accommodation.

A number of previous LDAWE blog posts have discussed some of the obvious differences between these two education systems, and their impact on the transition process. Tammy Wilcox offered a parent’s perspective on this process in her article “Transitioning to University or College”. And in “Smooth Moves: Transitioning to University” and “Transition: Smooth Moves, Part 2”, I talk about some of these differences, and offer a bit of advice about preparing for them.

The reality is that educators and advisors in each of these systems are well aware of this apparent “disconnect”, and working hard to close this gap so that transitioning from high school to university or college can be a little more seamless (and a little less daunting) for our students. An example of this can be seen in the CUSP (College and University Success Preparation) Program, which is offered annually at the University of Windsor.

CUSP was created in collaboration with the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) (with help from our friends at St. Clair College and from the Learning Disabilities Association), to make sure that high school students who have a learning disability and/or ADHD get information they need well in advance in order to make informed choices about the academic path that’s right for them, whether that’s university or college. Students and their parents spend the morning with us learning about some of the differences between high school and college/university, as well as about the variety of services that are potentially available, how to access those services, and how to access funding for assessments and technology. They also have the opportunity to hear first-hand from a panel of students with LD/ADHD who have managed to transition smoothly from high school and are “getting it done” at a post-secondary level with great success.

High school students in Grade 11 or 12 who have a learning disability and/or ADHD and would like to start gathering information that can empower them to have a smoother transition to college or university can learn more on the CUSP webpage. Students affiliated with the GECDSB can also learn more from their Learning Support Teachers. Students from private or separate school board high schools are also welcome to join us, and are requested to contact us directly for registration. The link for that can be found on the CUSP webpage.

It has been said that the future belongs to those who prepare for it today.   So students, think about the kind of future you’d like to create for yourself, and start planning for it now. If you think there might be a place in that future for university or college, then consider joining us for the CUSP Program as an initial step in gathering the information you need to start creating the future you want.

dys·lex·i·a

dəsˈleksēə/

noun

a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that do not affect general intelligence.

(Thank you Google!)

As a Learning Support teacher and specialist in treating students with Language-based learning disabilities, I often have parents enquiring about whether or not I believe their child has Dyslexia. I am not a psychologist and cannot make that call! Only a certified psychologist can properly diagnose Reading Disorders, through psychoeducational testing.

However, there are warning signs. I noticed several oddities when my son was a preschooler. My son was very intelligent! He understood everything that was asked of him, although he sometimes had difficulties following multi-step directions. He had a fantastic vocabulary and general knowledge, especially about the things that interested him. He knew the alphabet song and could easily sing it anytime it was requested. But, when it came down to pointing to the letters of the alphabet as we sang, I noticed he had no idea that each of these strange symbols meant. He had difficulties with cutting and pasting, pronouncing some sounds, words and phrases. Seeing hundreds of children every day enabled me to realize that something was up.

What is Dyslexia?

  • Dyslexia is the name for specific learning disabilities in reading.
  • Dyslexia is often characterized by difficulties with accurate word recognition, decoding and spelling.
  • Dyslexia may cause problems with reading comprehension and slow down vocabulary growth.
  • Dyslexia may result in poor reading fluency and reading out loud.
  • Dyslexia is neurological and often genetic.
  • Dyslexia is not the result of poor instruction.
  • With the proper support, almost all people with dyslexia can become good readers and writers.

Could my child have Dyslexia (or a language-based learning disorder)?

The warning signs…

(taken from http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia)

Young Children

Trouble With:

  • Recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds and blending sounds into speech

  • Pronouncing words, for example saying “mawn lower” instead of “lawn mower”

  • Learning and correctly using new vocabulary words

  • Learning the alphabet, numbers, and days of the week or similar common word sequences

  • Rhyming

School-Age Children

Trouble With:

  • Mastering the rules of spelling

  • Remembering facts and numbers

  • Handwriting or with gripping a pencil

  • Learning and understanding new skills; instead, relying heavily on memorization

  • Reading and spelling, such as reversing letters (d, b) or moving letters around (left, felt)

  • Following a sequence of directions

  • Trouble with word problems in math

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:

  • Reading at the expected level

  • Understanding non-literal language, such as idioms, jokes, or proverbs

  • Reading aloud

  • Organizing and managing time

  • Trouble summarizing a story

  • Learning a foreign language

  • Memorizing

Empowering your child with Dyslexia

bruceDyslexia is a very specific learning disability. Children with Dyslexia usually have at least average (and many times above average) intelligence. Once your child is able to be aware of this, they can understand and embrace that they only have a very specific challenge. This empowers them! It is way easier to know that you only have to overcome one or two hurdles than to think you are incapable. Often this is the case before the diagnosis of Dyslexia.

Let them know and reassure them that as they learn new strategies life will get easier. Reading and writing will always be a bit more of a challenge for them compared to their peers, but over time they will learn way to compensate for this and their true abilities will shine through. Sometimes these challenges help them to realize that their strengths are truly gifts.

For example, my son always had difficulty writing in his agenda. However, he always remembered his assignments and important dates. He then came to realize that his memory for schedules and date was extraordinary!

Famous People with Dyslexia

I find that my son and my students are amazed when they find out that many famous and successful people struggled with Dyslexia. One of my students recently came to me and said he would never be able to do anything academic because he had Dyslexia. I said to him that I know a lot of people with Dyslexia that were still able to be very successful! We went on the computer and looked it up. He was ecstatic and began to take on a different view of his challenges.dyslexia-banner-1000x288

Let’s take a look at just a small sampling of some people with these challenges:

  • Walt Disneywalt_disney_records
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Tom Cruise
  • Will Smith
  • Steve Jobs
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Anderson Cooper
  • Leonardo da Vinci
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Andy Warhol
  • Tommy Hilfiger_41358919_orlando_getty_203
  • John Lennon
  • Cher
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Albert Einstein
  • Thomas Edison
  • George Washington
  • Andrew Jackson
  • Woodrow Wilsonimages2
  • Nelson Rockafeller
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Bruce Jenner
  • Greg Louganis
  • Nolan Ryan
  • Jackie Stewart
  • Richard Branson
  • Henry Ford
  • William Hewlitt
  • Charles Schwab
  • Ted Turner
  • Frank W. WoolwortSteve Jobs
  • Hans Christian Anderson
  • Agatha Christie
  • Orlando Bloom
  • Vince Vaughn
  • Robin Williams
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Jim Carrey
  • Danny Glover
  • Famous_DyslexicsWhoopi Goldberg
  • Jay Leno
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Kiera Knightley
  • Billy Bob Thornton
  • Tommy Smothers
  • Henry Winkler

…and the list goes on!

dyslexics

Read more: http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm#ixzz3OcDLAhpr

Get involved in GivingTuesdayCA!

Giving Tuesday

Have you heard of GivingTuesday yet?  This is the 3rd year that GivingTuesday has been around. The first year it was only held in the US, but last year it made its way to Canada and other countries around the world.  LDAWE has been a partner in GivingTuesdayCA since last year.  For those that do not know:

GivingTuesday is a global day of giving. After the sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, GivingTuesday is a time to celebrate and encourage activities that support charities and non profits. Whether it’s making a donation, volunteering time, helping a neighbour or spreading the word, GivingTuesday is a movement for everyone who wants to give something back.  www.GivingTuesday.ca

This year, GivingTuesday takes place on Tuesday, December 2, 2014.  There are multiple ways that you can get involved and support LDAWE and the GivingTuesdayCA movement:

1. #UNselfie – show your support for LDAWE and GivingTuesday by taking a picture of yourself holding a sign stating why you support LDAWE and post it on your social media acounts. Make sure to tag it #UNselfie, #GivingTuesdayCA, and #LDAWE. If you do not have a social media account, just email it to info@ldawe.ca and we will post it for you.

Having hard time coming up with your #UNselfie sign? We have created a couple of signs that you can use, plus a template sign where you can write your own message:

2. Text-to-Donate – during the months of November and December you can text LDAWE to 20222 and make a donation of $5, $10, $20, or $25 to LDAWE. A charitable donation receipt for your text-to-donate donation will be available from Mobile Giving Foundation Canada.

3. Interac Online Donation Matching Program – double the power of your donation by donating to LDAWE through CanadaHelps on December 2, 2014 between 9am – 11:59pm and pay by Interac Online and they will match up to $25 of your donation up to the first $10,000 donated.

4. Make a Donation – Make a safe and secure donation online to LDAWE through our CanadaHelps page or make an old fashion donation by cash or cheque to LDAWE at 647 Ouellette Avenue, Suite 101, Windsor, ON N9A 4J4.

All donations made to LDAWE stay in the Windsor-Essex community and are used to support our Resource and Support Centre, ongoing programs, and public awareness events. We hope that you will consider supporting LDAWE during this holiday giving season. Thank you for your ongoing support!

www.ldawe.ca

Laptops and iPads and Chromebooks, oh my!

I have written blog posts (Goose Bumps and The iPad Question) before about our A/T program.  For those who don’t know… A/T stands for assistive technology or adaptive technology.  LDAWE is fortunate that we have contracts with both of our local English school boards to provide A/T training to students with disabilities who receive technology for use in the classroom to help them access the curriculum.  The name of the Ministry of Education funding used to purchase this equipment is call SEA (Special Equipment Amount).

The good news is that both of our school boards are fairly progressive when is comes to issuing SEA Claim Equipment.  For example:

  • They issue equipment (and lots of it… more about that later).  I have heard that some school boards around the province still hardly issue any A/T equipment to students who would benefit from it.
  • They are innovative.  Instead of just issuing laptops like they have in the past, both school boards are now experimenting with new types of equipment, such as iPads and Chromebooks.
  • They invest in training.  The equipment is only beneficial to the student, if they know how to use it.
  • They are willing to change.  When given feedback that current policies around issuing SEA Claim Equipment are not working, they make adjustments to the policies and procedures to make it work.

Laptops, iPads, and Chromebooks

All of that being said… I’m feeling a little bit like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz this year.  The first full year that we provided A/T training was the 2009/2010 school year. That year we had 5 A/T Trainers on staff and we provided training to 129 students. This year, due to some changes in one of the Board’s policies, we have already received referrals for 486 students to receive training (and it’s only November). We started off the school year with 9 A/T Trainers, 1 A/T Training Scheduler, and myself as the coordinator of the program. Since the change in policy, we’ve hired 7 more A/T Trainers. I have also been busy creating new lesson plans for the new types of devices that are being issued. Also, both school boards are looking into adding classroom training as well.

Please be patient as LDAWE and the school boards work through these changes. All of these changes are great news for students with learning disabilities and ADHD in Windsor and Essex County.  I look forward to a day when all students can access the curriculum regardless of ability and without fear of judgement.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!However, with that being said, I must admit that I’ve had more than a couple dreams about A/T lately…

Laptops and iPads and Chromebooks, oh my!

Laptops and iPads and Chromebooks, OH MY!!

Laptops and iPads and Chromebooks, OH MY!!!

The Loneliest Kid on the Bus

Sad boy in foreground being teased and bullied by three kids in the background.

Many kids with LD or ADHD also have social skills deficits which make school and life that much harder.

A Twitter ‘retweet’ via the LDAWE flashed onto my screen a few weeks ago, and it said this: “Stats Canada reports that 3.2% of Canadian children have a learning disability; that equates to 1 child in every full school bus”.  And it occurred to me as I read this that the one child on the bus who has the learning disability would very likely be the child who was sitting alone, being ignored or being bullied. I shared this observation with a friend, who pointed out to me that it would be just as likely that the child with the learning disability might also be the child wreaking havoc and doing the bullying. In either case, the reason might be the same: it is estimated that 75% of children with learning disabilities also have social skill deficits that make it difficult for them to have and keep friends.

It was these kids that Rick Lavoie was referring to when he coined the phrase “last one picked, first one picked on”, capturing the idea that it’s a real struggle for these kids to understand and “fit in” to the social structure around them. It may be that they were unable to learn the social skill or rule in the first place. It may be that they learned the skills but fail to consistently recognize when and how to use them. It may be that a lack of self-control results in negative behaviours which prevent them from either learning or applying good,  appropriate social judgment. Whatever the reason, the result can be a child who feels broken, lost, rejected, and unable to connect with the people around them for reasons they don’t understand.

A significant consequence of this kind of social struggle in kids can be anxiety, which only exacerbates the difficulties they are having. Although this is by no means a comprehensive list, a social skills deficit might manifest in ways that include:

  • Missed social cues
  • Failure to use proper manners
  • Difficulty taking turns in conversations
  • Missing important pieces of information
  • Distractibility, or appearing to ignore others
  • Misreading body language or facial expression
  • Misunderstanding information, not understanding jokes
  • Inability to maintain topic in a conversation, or ending a conversation abruptly
  • Disorganized or scattered thought and speech
  • Sharing information that is inappropriate (disinhibition, impulsivity)
  • Avoidance of social situations

For most of us, how we interact with one another is second nature, and is something we learned mostly unconsciously and without much effort (albeit with a few bumps and bruises, a bit of trial and error, and perhaps a touch of drama along the way). For most kids with LD or ADHD though, it’s not at all natural or easy. The good news is that, although they may need to learn these skills differently, they can in fact be learned with the right kinds of interventions.

For local resources, parents need look no further than the LDAWE’s Child Programs, and in particular the BEST Social Skills Program (BEST: Better Emotional and Social Times), for children 8-12. Their Summer Enrichment Camps also have a focus on social skills enrichment, with lots of opportunity for kids to practice what they are learning. For older kids (13-18), the LDAWE’s Youth Programs include a Youth Recreation Program where kids can “practice their social skills in an understanding environment and… become more active within their own community”.

Without the right kind of guidance and support, kids with social skill deficits are likely to become adults with social skills deficits, making it difficult for them to get and keep stable employment   The LDAWE ‘s Adult Programs offer support through their ERASE Program (Effective Resources and Skills for Employment), their Employment Supports Program, (Job Placement, Job Advancement, and Job Retention), and their Adult Recreation Program.

I don’t imagine that it’s easy to be the loneliest kid on the bus, nor to be the last one picked or the first one picked on, but this is not typically a problem that will get better on its own.  The reality is that if left unacknowledged and unaddressed, social skill deficits are more likely to become bigger problems than to go away as one grows older.  The loneliest kids on the bus often grow up to become the loneliest people in the workplace, if they are able to land and hold jobs at all.  But it doesn’t have to be that way, and with the right guidance and support and information and resources, these kids can learn to develop and sustain the kinds of supportive, productive friendships and relationships that we are all entitled to have.


If you’re looking for a good book on the topic of social skills deficits and LD/ADHD, I offer a couple of recommendations:

“It’s So Much Work to Be Your Friend: Helping the Child With Learning Disabilities Find Social Success” (Richard Lavoie)

“What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don’t?”   (Michele Novotni)

And finally, Rick Lavoie’s video, “Last One Picked, First One Picked On”  is a terrific resource for parents and educators. Check out the Viewer’s Guide below for some very helpful information.

last one picked

Don’t DIS my ABILITY!

October is Learning Disabilities Awareness Month

The theme for this year’s Learning Disabilities Awareness Month is, “Don’t DIS my ABILITY!: Imagine the difference it could make if we focused on the strengths of people with learning disabilities instead of their weaknesses?”  Here’s some basic facts about learning disabilities (LDs):

  • It is generally accepted that 10% of the general population has LD
  • By definition, someone with LD has average to above average intelligence
  • LDs impact certain skills, most of which can be improved with the appropriate supports
  • When individuals with LD do not receive timely appropriate supports, they have a higher than average rate of school dropout, unemployment, and poverty

Don't Dis my Ability

Why a Person’s Abilities Matter

“People too often define the life of someone living with LDs by the areas where their LDs impact directly, such as math, reading, writing, or organizational skills.  The goal of this campaign is for people to see beyond that to their multiple areas of strength.  LDs didn’t stop Richard Branson, Jamie Oliver, or John Lennon.  A person with LDs just needs the right supports to achieve success.” – Lawrence Barns, President and CEO of LDAO

Our goal is to see that every person living with LD in Windsor-Essex County is given the support, opportunity, and understanding they need to succeed, by seeing their true ability!  Please help us accomplish our goal by:

  • donating to LDAWE,
  • following our social media feeds (see the links below),
  • encouraging your friends, family, and colleagues to follow our social media feeds,
  • sharing our various LD Awareness Month posts, tweets, and images on your own social media feeds, and
  • using the hashtags #LDMonth and #LD on your own posts, tweets, and images.

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Lasting Impact at LDAWE Summer Camps

Here at LDAWE, we can’t believe that our Summer Enrichment Camps are now complete!  One of the most rewarding things this summer was to hear from the campers and their families regarding what a difference the camps were making in their lives.  Many of the campers made friends and even visited their new friends during non-camp time.  One mother mentioned that after attending just 1 week of camp, her son could now tell time using an analog clock.  A grandmother told us that for the first time ever, her grandson was excited to go to a camp every day (this was unusual since at other places he had refused to even get out of the car).  We hope the lessons learned and the friends made throughout this year’s summer camps have a lasting impact on the campers’ lives.

Week 5 in Essex: Eco-Explorers

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using computers, iPads, a Smart Board, and by playing various games.  This week the campers spent a lot of time outdoors interacting with their environment.  During the week, the campers got to go on nature walks around the school.  During their walks they used their magnifying glasses to find snails, insects, flowers, rocks, and minerals.

Summer Camp Essex

This week the campers also:

  • Made animal sculptures out of their own homemade play dough.
  • Used their homemade play dough to answer math questions.
  • Researched their favourite animals and made posters about their animal.
  • Tested their engineering skills by using recycled products to create race cars.
  • Created scratch art and made handprints to tell all about themselves during arts and crafts time.
  • Played octopus during indoor recess.
  • The last day of the camp was capped off with an outdoor scavenger hunt!

Summer Camp Essex

The campers also watched the animated TV special, “The Lorax,” based on the book by Dr. Seuss.  The story focuses on the consequences that corporate greed can have on our environment.  As a result, the campers participated in a garbage cleanup around the school.

The Lorax at the Essex Summer Camp

 A very special thank you to Mrs. Christina, Mr. Nick, Miss. Sarah, Miss. Hannah, and Miss. Amy for making this year’s camps in Essex so successful for all of the campers!

 

Week 5 in Windsor: The Wacky World of Science

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using computers, iPads, the Smart Board, and by playing various games.  The campers learned all about acids and bases from Mr. Daniel.  The campers had the opportunity to participate in a variety of science experiments, such as:

  • Exploding lunch bags by mixing baking soda and vinegar together
  • Sucking an egg into a bottle by changing the air pressure
  • Watching a volcano eruption by mixing Diet Pepsi and Mentos together
  • Turning our campers into human bubbles
  • Making slime and bouncy balls

One of the most impressive experiments was the volcano eruption.  Watch it below:

One of the campers’ favourite activities during the week was becoming human bubbles!

Summer Camp in Windsor

The last day was a fun day with all kinds of games and activities.  The campers played face the cookie, potato sack races, jumping for donuts, and group hula hoop races.

Windsor Summer Camp

A very special thank you to Mrs. Dana, Ms. Lori, Miss. Kayla, Mr. Daniel, Miss. Maegan, and Miss. Mackenzie for making this year’s camps in Windsor so successful for all of the campers!

All of the staff members of LDAWE would like to wish the campers a wonderful end to your summer vacations and best of luck in school in the fall! We hope to see you again next year!