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

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

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.

Facebook

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It was a Safe Week at LDAWE Summer Camps!

Week 4 of our Summer Enrichment Camps were so busy, it took a couple extra days for all of the information to come into the office!  The Campers at both sites have been sharing their thoughts, feelings, and activities throughout the week on our Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.

Week 4 in Essex: The Superhero Academy

At the Essex site, the campers were busy keeping the world safe from evil villains!  During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using the computers, iPads, Smart Board, and by playing various games. They created their own superhero characters (including their own costumes), made comic book pages (see some samples here), created Superhero themed films (see an example below), and to keep up their superhero strength they played indoor baseball and danced up a storm.  The week ended with a superhero scavenger hunt.

Essex Summer Camp Week 4

For the final week of the Summer Enrichment Camp in Essex the theme is Eco-Explorers.

 

Week 4 in Windsor: Lights, Camera, Action!

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using the computers, iPads, Smart Board and by playing various games.  They also got to practice their creative writing and acting skills (using body language and facial expressions) by making movie trailers using iMovie on the iPad.  The staff also had a surprise in store for the campers and built the suspense throughout the week.

Windsor Summer Camp Week 4

Here are the videos that the campers made during the week:

After building up the suspense all week, the staff at the Windsor summer camp finally revealed their surprise to the campers… They were having a surprise visit from Windsor Firefighters Engine 5 Crew!  The campers had the opportunity to learn about fire safety, learn how a fire truck works, and sit inside a fire truck.  At the end, the campers were in for one last surprise… the firefighters brought a special fire hydrant water sprinkler!  Good thing the staff had secretly asked parents to bring a change of clothes for our campers, since a fun time was had by all.  Special thanks to Public Education Officers Bridget Chippett, Captain Mark McArthur, Fire Fighter Mark Costello, Fire Fighter Mark Dupuis, and Fire Fighter Shay Currie.

Fire Safety

For the final week of the Summer Enrichment Camp in Windsor the theme is the Wacky World of Science.

For more information about our programs, check out our website at www.ldawe.ca.

Scary Week at LDAWE Summer Camp

Week 2 of our Summer Enrichment Camps are in the books… and what an exciting (and scary) week it was!  The Campers at both sites have been sharing their thoughts, feelings, and activities throughout the week on our Twitter feed and on our Facebook page.

Week 2 in Windsor: Eco-Explorers

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using the computers, iPads, Smart Board, and playing various games. They went on nature walks, researched their favourite animals, learned about fossils, took pictures with some scary animals (i.e. snacks and spiders), and at the end of the week they put all of their accomplishments into a scrapbook.

Learning about Nature

 

Scary Animal Photoshoot

 

Eco-Explorer Scrapbooks

The theme for next week’s Summer Enrichment Camp in Windsor is the Amazing Race World Challenge.

 

Week 2 in Windsor: Lights, Camera, Action!

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using the computers, iPads, Smart Board and playing various games.  They practiced their persuasion skills by making a commercial for the item of their choice (See Sample 1 and Sample 2).  They also got to practice their creative writing and acting skills by making movie trailers using iMovie on the iPad.  Scary movies were a hit, with 3 out of the 4 movie trailers having a scary theme.  On the last day, the campers got to watch a movie while eating popcorn.

Lights, Camera, Action

The theme for next week’s Summer Enrichment Camp in Essex is the Wacky World of Science.

For more information about our programs, check out our website at www.ldawe.ca.

Making Friends at LDAWE Summer Camp

Here at LDAWE, the first couple of weeks of summer are always a bit crazy as we get ready for our Summer Enrichment Camps.  We spend those first couple of weeks getting all of the children registered for the camps, ensuring all of the Summer Camp staffed are trained, and getting all of the resources and supplies out to the program sites in Windsor and in Essex (and trust us… there are a LOT of resources and supplies!).

However, the first week of the summer camps are now complete, and from the feedback from the kids, parents, and staff members… it sounds like week 1 was a success!  The Campers at both sites have been sharing their thoughts, feelings, and activities throughout the week on our Twitter feed and on Facebook.

Week 1 in Essex: The Amazing Race World Challenge

Summer Camp Essex W1During the week, the campers practiced their literacy and math skills using the computers, iPads, Smart Board, and playing various games.  They also researched various countries and made postcards and posters for their chosen countries.  Since the weather was so nice, they took gym time outside and played some soccer baseball.  All of the campers and the staff members received a special treat on the last day, when one of the parents purchased pizza for lunch!

Here’s some of the quotes from the campers:

  • “I had fun this week making postcards and posters for Croatia and I want to come back next week!” – Zack
  • “I have made a lot of friends and I am having fun at camp!” – Gracie
  • “I met a new friend!” – Alyssa

Here’s a quote from one of the parents:

  • “The kids are having a blast!” – Manda

 

The theme for next week’s Summer Enrichment Camp in Essex is Lights, Camera, Action!.

Week 1 in Windsor: Superhero Academy

Summer Camp Windsor W1During the week, the campers practiced their literacy and math skills using the Smart Board and playing various games, defeated evil villains using their super powers during gym time, made escape vehicles using lego, made their own superhero outfits during arts and crafts time, and made their very own comic books using iPads (see sample 1 and sample 2 here).

Here’s some of the quotes from the campers:

  • “I really like how I learn a lot and it is easy to make friends” – Trina
  • “My favourite thing is that everything at camp is awesome!” – Michael
  • “I really like how at camp we get to learn and have fun at the same time!” – Daniella
  • “I really like the learning centres and rotations!” – Ibrahim
  • “I really like being a superhero for the week and making shields!” – Tristen
  • “My favourite thing about camp is how we get to learn and play dodgeball with my new friends” – Deoante

Here’s a quote from one of the parents:

  • “Another awesome adventure for the kids!!! [My son] loves superhero’s and was very excited about creating his own character. Great Job to the staff and volunteers for your creativity and hard work!!!” – Jennifer

The theme for next week’s Summer Enrichment Camp in Windsor is Eco-Explorers.

For more information about our programs, check out our website at www.ldawe.ca.

Don’t stop building your smarts (some summer advice for students)

Stylized image of a human brain lit up with blue light indicating activity and growth.

“If you believe you can accomplish everything by “cramming” at the eleventh hour, by all means, don’t lift a finger now. But you may think twice about beginning to build your ark once it has already started raining” Max Brooks

School’s out (almost)! And if you’re a student getting ready to graduate from high school, you’re probably ready for some well earned down time, right? And if you’re headed off to college or university in September, you probably want to make this summer count. Spend time with your friends. Party a bit. Maybe spend time at a cottage, or just chill somewhere. Honing you academic skills is likely the last thing on your mind. But…if you truly want to meet your potential in college or university, there are some things you should do this summer that can’t wait until the last minute, which will keep you sharp and on your game, will prevent your skills from getting rusty, and will allow you to start this next chapter of your academic career with some momentum. It is absolutely true that “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, so here are some things you can do over the summer to maintain your edge:

Keep reading! It doesn’t have to feel like homework. Read anything that interests or inspires you, or sparks your interest. Read at a level that’s fun for you. Read magazines, or newspapers, or trashy novels if that’s fun for you, but read! And if you want to challenge yourself a bit, try listening to audio books, or try a novel using that text-to-speech software (Kurzweil, perhaps?) that’s been gathering dust on your laptop. The whole point is to keep your mind active and stimulated by giving it new information to process.

Keep writing! Nobody’s asking you to produce 10-page papers every week, but you can keep your writing skills sharps by doing something as simple as maintaining a daily journal.  And no…texting does not qualify as the kind of writing you need to be good at.  In college/university you can’t write using acronyms or emoticons (LOL), so keep your skills up by practicing the kind of writing that you’ll be required to do when you get here. Go old school and write a letter to your Aunt Daisy in Newfoundland, or a thank you note to Uncle John in Red Deer.   Journaling, letter writing, whatever you do, find a reason to write frequently throughout the summer. You may even want to do this by experimenting with the Dragon software that is sitting alone and lonely on your laptop.

Learn your technology! Many high school students with learning disabilities have access to technology and assistive software that they never use.  Take some time this summer to learn it.  Post-secondary students routinely use programs like Kurzweil, Dragon Naturally Speaking, and Inspiration to level the playing field and to achieve at their academic potential.  And with very few exceptions, every student at this level is using some form of technology. Get comfortable with your technology and be ready to put it to use when you get here.  You’ll be glad you did.

Learn your self!  Part of that self is the small but important part that is your learning disability. This part should never define who you are, but ignoring it won’t do you any good either. So, start by reading and understanding your IEP and assessment (if you have one). Understand your diagnosis and what it means. Understand and be able to explain why you get the accommodations that you get. Take responsibility for developing an understanding of how you learn, and what the learning strategies are that empower you to reach for your potential. The more you are able to do that, the more independent you become, and the more effective you will be in advocating for yourself after high school.

Maintain a schedule! One of the biggest potential stumbling blocks high school students encounter in transitioning to university is with time management. In high school, your schedule was largely determined for you, but in university…not so much.   In most cases you will determine the number of courses you will take, when they will be, whether or not you will attend, or whether a social event with new friends will take priority over your academic responsibilities. This kind of independence and responsibility can seem like freedom, but it can become a curse if you let it. So get a handle on your time management now. Plan and stick to a routine over the summer. Set an alarm and get up on your own. Figure out when you will work out, when you will spend time reading and relaxing, when you’ll hang out with friends, when you’ll take time for college /university prep, and how you’ll do all of that around the summer job you may have found. Put all of this on a schedule and stick with it, in preparation for the new time management demands you will find after high school.

Get ready for your courses! Look for course information online, and get the lay of the land as early as you can. It’s much better to start the first day of class having already established an overview of what will be required. You may even be able to buy your books ahead of time, and if you can do that, there’s no reason not to scan some of that material as part of your summer reading program. And to the extent that it’s possible, learn your new campus. Explore it if you have the opportunity to do that. Figure out how to find the offices and services you may need, and get comfortable with navigating your new campus well before class begins.  One less thing to worry about once class actually starts.

Make early contact with the Office for Student’s with Disabilities! As we discussed in a previous blog post (Smooth Moves: Transitioning to University), the process for being accommodated at a post-secondary level is very different from what you may have become used to in high school. So…it is never too early to start the process. Meet with a Disability Advisor at your new school, who will spend time with you reviewing your current accommodations and documentation. Many high school students require an updated assessment when they move on to college/university, and an advisor can facilitate and guide you through a process to ensure that you are appropriately accommodated when class begins.

So enjoy your summer, by all means, but don’t neglect important aspects of yourself in the process, and don’t stop building on the solid academic foundation you established in high school. Use some of your “down time” this summer to build yourself up, preparing your body and mind for the new journey that lies just ahead. Have fun, but make sure you don’t arrive at the first day of class with an empty tank. Get proper rest, and exercise, and nutrition, and nourish your mind in some of the ways that we’ve talked about. Nourish your spirit too, by spending time with people you love, and who love you, and who inspire you somehow to be your best self.  Have a fun, safe and productive summer, and plan to arrive at your new school with a full tank of gas, fully prepared to head out on the road to success.

 

If you have any thoughts on what you’ve read,  please feel free to comment,  ‘Like’ it,  ‘Share’  it,  or otherwise spread the word via social media.