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!



Hansen, K. (2013) College instructors’ preparedness to teach students with learning disabilities. University of Western Ontario – Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SSC SAST; 2011). Opening the door: Reducing Barriers to post-secondary education in Canada


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

Professor, Educational Support Program

St. Clair College of Applied Arts & Technology

Windsor, Ontario


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.


  PinterestInstagramYouTubeLinkedInGoogle +Twitter

Labour Day Blues…

Am I the only one that feels this way?  I’m in my 30s (and no, I’m not going to get more specific than that), and I still dread Labour Day.  I’ve always felt it’s the worst holiday of the year.  To me, Labour Day always symbolizes the end of Summer and the beginning of school.  I remember listening to the radio one year on Labour Day and something must have happened at the radio station, because they just kept playing the R.E.M. song, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” on repeat for over an hour.  I remember wondering if it was some cruel joke the radio station was playing on all of us students.  I haven’t gone to school for over a decade, and I still get that feeling of back to school dread.  Maybe if I had my own children, the feeling of dread would be replaced with the feelings of joy and happiness as I got to ship the children off to school.  I don’t know…

Regardless of my feelings of the holiday, for children with learning disabilities or ADHD, and their parents, the start of a new school year can be very anxiety provoking.  Parents worry about a wide variety of things, such as wondering if the:

  • new classroom teacher is going to “understand” the child’s disability and/or accommodation plan.
  • child is going to get the computer equipment the school promised the year before.
  • class bully is going to be in the child’s class this year.
  • etc…

During the next couple of weeks, all of these questions will be answered.  I wish the best for you and your child.  However, if difficulties arise, please don’t forget that there are lots of great organizations (such as LDAWE) around that can assist you and your family.

I also want you all to know that LDAO (our provincial organization) is hosting a webinar, “Starting the school year off on the right foot – how to help children with LDs transition back into school.”  The webinar takes place on Wednesday, September 24, 2014.  Please click on the flyer for more details.


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!

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

Fun Filled Week at LDAWE Summer Camps

Wow, here at LDAWE, we can’t believe that the first 3 weeks of our Summer Enrichment Camps are already complete!  Don’t forget, the Campers at both sites have been sharing their thoughts, feelings, and activities throughout the week on our Twitter feed and on Facebook, so please follow these feeds to get the most up-to-date information about what’s happening during the week.

Week 3 in Essex: The Wacky World of Science

Summer Camp Essex

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using computers, iPads, a Smart Board, and various games.  This week the campers were very busy conducting science experiments and learning about different types of science.  This included:

  • Learning about geology while making volcanoes out of paper-mache and watching them erupt (see the video below),
  • Making gooey slime when they were chemists,
  • Learning how to clean up oil spills when they were marine biologists,
  • Making circuits when they were electrical engineers, and
  • Learning about aerodynamics while making paper airplanes.

The most inspiring quote of the week comes from Alyssa:

  • “Never, never give up! My airplane won first place because it went the farthest!”

The theme for next week’s Summer Enrichment Camp in Essex is the Superhero Academy.  Don’t forget, next week’s Camp runs from Tuesday – Friday due to the Civic Holiday on Monday.


Week 3 in Windsor: The Amazing Race World Challenge

During the week, the campers practiced their literacy, math, and adaptive technology skills using computers, iPads, the Smart Board, and various games.  They became world travellers while visiting Mexico, Egypt, and China.  By the time they got back to Canada, they were exhausted and jet lagged!  Good thing they each made scrapbooks of their journey, so they can remember what they accomplished while on their travels.

Summer Camp Windsor

Throughout the week, the campers competed in the LDAWE version of the TV show, The Amazing Race. Working in pairs, the campers completed academic challenges in 7 minute intervals. When a pair hit a roadblock, they had to complete a physical challenge. The campers won awards for completing various challenges. Congratulations to Trina and Dorothea, who were the winners of the LDAWE Amazing Race World Challenge!

Summer Camp Windsor

Here’s some of the quotes from the campers:

  • “I like how we have to work with teammates and compete against others at the same time!” – Trina
  • “I liked learning about the Mexican tribes!” – Michael W.
  • “I really like the roadblock challenges!” – Connor
  • “It’s awesome how we do challenges and try to get more points than the other teams.” – Daniella
  • “I love this game!” (while playing math war with her teammate) – Micah

The theme for next week’s Summer Enrichment Camp in Windsor is Lights, Camera, Action!.  Don’t forget, next week’s Camp runs from Tuesday – Friday due to the Civic Holiday on Monday.

For more information about our programs, check out our website at