#GivingTuesdayCA is here!

GivingTuesday-Wide

GivingTuesday is a National Giving Day

Most people know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday… now GivingTuesday is coming to Canada on December 1, 2015.

It is a new Canadian movement for giving and volunteering, taking place each year after Cyber Monday. The “Opening day of the giving season,” it is a day where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others.

So, why should you donate to the Learning Disabilities Association of Windsor – Essex County?  Simple.  Your donation will have a direct impact on a child, youth, or adult here in Windsor – Essex.  See below to learn how you can help.

Help a child learn to read (1)

Help a youth graduate from high school (1)

Help someone find a job

You can help a child make a friend...

Make your donation to LDAWE go further on Giving Tuesday!

Several companies are offering donation matching programs for Giving Tuesday:

PayPal: Make a donation through CanadaHelps.org, using PayPal starting on Tuesday December 1, 2015 through Thursday December 31, 2015 and PayPal will match 1% of every donation made throughout the promotion.

Interac Online: On GivingTuesday, December 1st, 2015, Acxsys Corporation (the architects of the Interac network) will match online charitable donations made through CanadaHelps.org and paid using Interac Online, up to $25 per donation and a maximum total of $10,000 in matching dollars.

Text – to – Donate to LDAWE is Back!

Text LDAWE to 20222 to help children, youth, and adults with learning disabilities in the Windsor – Essex community. You can donate $5, $10, $20, or $25. You will have the option to download a charitable donation receipt. Text to donate will end on December 31, 2015.

Visit our website to learn more about our programs and services.

 

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.

The courage to get real

Stylized drawing of young woman and lion, sky in background, reaching for heart representing courage.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”   Anais Nin

In a previous blog article (When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change) I talked about Malcolm Gladwell’s contention that learning disabilities may in fact be what he called “desirable difficulties”. He contends that in spending a lifetime confronting and managing a learning disability, a skill set is forged which turns out to be a significant advantage when harnessed in the right way, potentially resulting in something extraordinary. I believe that one of the character traits forged during this process is the ability to function in the face of fear: courage.

Having courage is not the same thing as being fearless. In fact, appropriate fear plays a very important role in our survival. It would not be smart to ignore fear when we are faced with legitimate threats; it’s the thing that warns us that it’s time to fight or flee. Fear was indispensable to our ancestors confronted by sabre-toothed tigers and marauding enemy tribes. It wears different, less physically threatening faces in the modern age (often, it may in fact be False Evidence Appearing Real) but it still feels just as threatening and provokes the same instincts as it did in our ancestors. Courage is the thing that allows us to rise above the fear, to respond bravely when every instinct is telling us to run (or hide). Courage trumps fear, empowering us to meet challenges, stretch our limits, and find fulfillment in our lives.

It’s hard for me to use the word “courage” without thinking about one of my favourite movie characters, the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. The interesting thing about the Cowardly Lion is that he was so focussed on his fears that he couldn’t see things as they truly were. In the beginning he is ashamed of being afraid, not understanding that true courage means taking action despite our fear (something he actually does frequently to protect his friends). In the end though, with a little help from the wizard, he is able to “change the way he looks at things” to recognize and accept his authentic, courageous self. He is finally led to the discovery that courage had been within him all along, and learns that you don’t have to be fearless to be brave.

So what does this have to do with learning disabilities? Just this: That school can be a scary proposition for a kid with a learning disability. Will I have to read aloud in front of the class? Will I be able to plan ahead and practice my passage so that I don’t screw it up? Am I going to blank out on the exam again, even though I studied hard and I know the material? Am I going to be bullied again today? Will I be called stupid or lazy or be laughed at in class? Why am I doing so poorly when I work so hard? And yet these kids get up each morning, marching bravely off to school to face whatever dragons may await them there. If we agree that courage is a kind of inner resolve, a resiliency that allows us to face scary circumstances head on, then let’s agree that these kids have it in spades.

It’s been said that courage doesn’t always roar; sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says “I’ll try again tomorrow”. That is what kids with learning disabilities do every day. But there comes a point for them when an even greater courage is required: The courage to acknowledge, accept, and embrace their learning disability in order to create the kind of life they want for themselves. I was reminded of this recently when a young woman arrived at our office to identify herself to us as a student with a learning disability, and to request accommodations. She explained that she’d had an IEP and received support throughout elementary school, but had decided to go without it in high school because she “didn’t want to deal with the label or the stigma”. She did reasonably well in high school with a lot of very hard work , and had hoped that trend could continue through university. It did not, which brought her to a realization that it was time to fully accept, confront, and manage her learning disability, and she is now well on her way to doing that. She readily admits that the prospect of that is scary, but she is ready to take it on…with courage.

I asked her what had ultimately spurred her decision to finally explore this aspect of herself without shame or embarrassment, and her answer was simple: “I was just tired of being afraid.” She went on to say that what she always had feared was being vulnerable in the face of other people’s judgement and rejection. She had always felt pressure to present her best possible self, and there was no place in that perception for anything resembling a flaw or an imperfection. It occurred to me as we spoke that we are all in the same boat, but that not all of us have the courage to deal with our issues the way this young woman was. Most of us do what we can to avoid confrontation with the “shadowy side” of our selves, but in finding the courage to learn about and accept all aspects of herself she felt lighter and truer and more authentic than she ever had.

Successful people with learning disabilities don’t get there by accident, and they don’t get there by denying who they are. And if it happens that who they are is in small part a person with a learning disability, then they go about learning what that means for them, and doing everything they can to understand and manage that aspect of the “self”. They don’t deny it. They don’t hide from it. They don’t run from it. They find the resolve to confront it and deal with it. It requires vulnerability, and self-acceptance, and authenticity, and…courage. And maybe that is one of the qualities that Gladwell is talking about as one of the positive side effects of living with “desirable difficulties”.

Author and lecturer Brene Brown had this to say about courage: “Courage is a heart word.  The root of the word is ‘cor’, the Latin word for heart.  In one of its earliest forms the word ‘courage’ meant to speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.  Over time this definition has changed, and today we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But…this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak openly and honestly about who we are and about our experiences – good and bad”.

A Turkish proverb says that a lion sleeps in all of our hearts.  Real courage is about connecting with who we truly are by entering our own hearts and awakening our inner lion.  It’s about being authentic in the face of fear and vulnerability.  It’s about accepting and loving ourselves (and one another) warts and all, which let’s face it, can be a messy business. But it’s the only way to live an authentic life, and it’s one of the greatest gifts we can give to one another.

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 Role of Psychological Assessment in Intervention

UWindsor Blog Post by: S. Scott, M.A.

When your child is having difficulties in school, whether in the area of academics, social relationships with others in the class, or one or more other areas, the first instinct as a parent or teacher is to intervene to help make the situation better and meet the child’s needs.

StudentsThis motivation to act is critical, as is gathering information about what exactly the child is having trouble with and why.  Such information is key in providing direction in deciding what supports would best help the child. The process of identifying the necessary supports can be achieved in several ways, one of which is by completing a psychoeducational or a neuropsychological assessment.  These types of assessments evaluate skills and abilities in areas relevant to school performance in a standardized way.  That is, the child’s performance is compared to other children who are the same age, and this provides information about areas of strength and weakness compared to their age-mates. This method can help to speed up the process through which a child is formally identified and accommodated at school.

Clinical psychologists who specialize in assessing children have a variety of tools in their toolbox to help pinpoint the difficulty and potentially determine the reasons why it exists.  The assessment process overall can take several weeks or more and requires a fair amount of information to be collected, including the child’s performance on standardized tests; a clinical interview with parents to gather background information; observations of the child’s behavior during testing; and other informal assessment procedures, such as reviewing samples of the child’s classroom work or direct observation of the child in the classroom (Sattler, 2008).  Teachers and parents may also fill out questionnaires to help the psychologist better understand some aspects of the child’s everyday behavior.

Although it is a time consuming process, at its conclusion, recommendations are given that are tailored to the child’s unique combination of strengths and needs to ensure the most appropriate interventions and learning strategies are put in place.  Additional resources often become available after a child has been diagnosed and formally identified, such as access to assistive technology (if warranted), and other accommodations in the classroom that will support the child’s learning, such as preferential seating in the front of the classroom or additional time to complete tests.

Another benefit of completing an assessment is ruling out diagnoses that do not fit with the difficulties that the child is experiencing.  That is, accurate diagnosis enables steps to be taken to initiate appropriate intervention, significantly reducing the chances of starting down a path that will not prove to be helpful and potentially losing valuable time treating the real problem.  It is well established that different developmental disorders often require different interventions.  For example, Nonverbal Learning Disorder is best managed with classroom accommodations that draw on a child’s strengths in language based academic and learning tasks (e.g., developing step-by-step written instructions that can be memorized to solve mathematical problems or to find a classroom when entering a new school), while minimizing reliance on weaker visual spatial skills.  In contrast, Autism Spectrum Disorders are treated most effectively with Intensive Behavioral Intervention (Perry et al., 2008) and techniques that incorporate Applied Behaviour Analysis (Dawson et al., 2010).  The methods used to reach an accurate diagnosis are continually refined by the findings of new research. Currently, additional research focusing on the way decisions are made by clinical psychologists and other health professionals to arrive at the correct diagnosis of an Autism Spectrum Disorder or Nonverbal Learning Disorder is needed to further reduce the chances of misdiagnosis.

If you have noticed that your child is struggling in school, an assessment from a clinical psychologist would almost certainly be helpful, and there are a number of options available.  If educators have identified your child as having difficulties in school based on their academic performance, then children may be assessed by clinical psychologists who are employed by the school board.  As a parent, it is within the scope of your rights to have discussions with your child’s teacher about concerns you have and to ask if your child would be eligible for an assessment through the school board.  Another option is to obtain an assessment privately.  There are a variety of clinical psychologists in Windsor and the surrounding area who specialize in assessing children.  Often, the child’s teacher or other parents who have been consumers of psychological services can make recommendations regarding who to contact.  A complete list of registered psychologists and their specializations can be obtained from the website of the College of Psychologists of Ontario.

House on Sunset - Psych ServicesIt is not uncommon for children and their families to face financial or other barriers to accessing diagnostic psychological assessments.  For those facing such barriers, several alternatives are available.  Psychological assessments are completed on the University of Windsor campus by licensed psychologists and clinical psychology graduate students based on a sliding fee scale for qualified individuals and families (for further information, please contact the Psychological Services and Research Centre directly at 519-973-7012 or access through their website.

Another option available from time to time is to involve your child in a research study that includes a comprehensive psychoeducational or neuropsychological assessment, usually free of charge.  Such research studies are often available through the Department of Psychology at the University of Windsor.  Each study has its own particular criteria that a child must meet in order to participate. Browsing the websites of Psychology Department faculty will give some idea of what is available.  For example, there is currently a study that is investigating the similarities and differences between Autism Spectrum Disorder and Nonverbal Learning Disorder in order to better understand the characteristics of each and to ensure that a correct diagnosis is reached. In this case, participants receive a neuropsychological assessment free of charge. To participate, however, children must be between the ages of 9 and 16 (inclusive), be able to speak in sentences, and have a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder or meet study criteria for Nonverbal Learning Disorder.To find out if your child is eligible to participate in this study, please call 519-551-8997 or email asd.nld.study@gmail.com.

CNRG: Child Neuropsychology Research Group

Regardless of the route you take to have your child assessed, it is a helpful process that offers numerous benefits to your child, and potentially to children who have yet to be diagnosed and are having difficulties in school.  Through research, there is an ongoing refinement of methods used to reach an appropriate diagnosis and to identify the most effective interventions.

References:

Dawson, G., Rogers, S., Munson, J., Milani, S., Winter, J., Greenson, J., . . . Varley, J. (2010). Randomized controlled trial of an intervention for toddlers with autism: The Early Start Denver Model. Pediatrics, 125, e17-e23. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-0958

Perry, A., Cummings, A., Geier, J. D., Freeman, N. L., Hughes, S., LaRose, L., . . . Williams, J. (2008). Effectiveness of Intensive Behavioral Intervention in a large, community-based program. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2(4), 621-642. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2008.01.002

Sattler, J. M. (2008). Assessment of children: Cognitive foundations (5th ed.). San Diego, CA: Jerome M. Sattler.

S. Scott, M.A.
Child Neuropsychology Research Group
University of Windsor