Friday, October 29, 2010
Executive function - a parent's perspective
If you don't know what executive function is, don't worry. Until a psychologist explained that it was one of the challenges my son was facing, I didn't know what it was either. But when she started describing the tasks that fall under the description - organization, impulse control, time management, sustained attention, planning and prioritizing - I immediately knew this is a topic I needed to learn more about.
My son has ADHD. It's a condition I had certainly heard of before he was diagnosed, but I didn't really understand it. Also new to me was the idea that all individuals with ADHD have executive function deficits, whatever the heck those were. Needless to say, I've learned a lot in the last year or so.
I think the first revelation for me was the idea that ADHD is based in the brain and is a developmental disability. In fact, the brain of a person with ADHD is developmentally about 30% behind his/her peers. With that information, it makes perfect sense that a 10-year-old might respond to situations in the same way a seven-year-old would. That has really helped my understanding as a parent when I'm faced with a meltdown over something that I might think isn't a big deal.
What has furthered my understanding of the challenges my son faces is getting a handle on what exactly executive functions are and how they play a role in everyday life. If you think of your frontal lobe as the conductor or CEO of the brain, you can start to see how it plays a crucial role in directing other brain functions, including reasoning, thoughts, actions and emotions.
Without an effective conductor, those processes are poorly controlled. Imagine trying to assess a situation, make a plan of attack, execute it and assess the result without that guidance. Most of us don't consciously think about these steps as we go through life, but they come into play in almost everything we do. Take my son for example. I might ask him in the morning to go and get dressed because we have to leave in a few minutes. He knows that he has to leave the kitchen, go down to his bedroom, get his clothes out and get dressed in a certain amount of time. But when he steps into the living room, he sees the TV is on. His frontal lobe doesn't prompt him to keep going so that he isn't late, so he stops to watch the show. When I step in, playing the role of the frontal lobe, he makes it to his room, only to find his brother there playing with some toys. Again, the impulse to play isn't well controlled, so he's soon down on the floor playing along. Another reminder, and he's finally pulling clothes out of his drawer.
The constant need to keep prompting can be tiring and discouraging for a parent. The most encouraging thing I've learned is that there are strategies we can use to help him strengthen his frontal lobe. Take homework for example. At my house, we've watched our son struggle with homework at times, especially bigger projects. I now know that he panics and resists those projects because he doesn't know how to effectively plan and organize the task, breaking the big project into manageable pieces and planning his time so that he can get it done by the deadline. (If you're a parent, you know how heartbreaking it can be to watch a child cry and call himself stupid because he believes he can't do something.) Now that we understand why it's so hard, we can help him by teaching him how to make the job more manageable. As soon as a project comes home, we sit down together to develop a plan to do just a little bit each day, plotting it out on a calendar. It certainly has helped relieve his stress, and over time, we should reach a point where he can take on the planning on his own.
If you're a parent, there are many resources out there to help you help your child. When we received our son's diagnosis, the psychologist suggested we read a book that she and her clients have found useful, "Smart But Scattered: The Revolutionary Executive Skills Approach to Helping Kids Reach Their Potential" by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. It's a terrific read that not only explains what executive functions are, but provides activities and techniques we can use to help him develop his skills.
I also recently attended a presentation by Dr. George McCloskey, Professor and Director of School Psychology Research of the Philiadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. It was all about executive functions and their impact on learning. He gives a wonderfully detailed explanation of what's happening in the brain of an individual with executive function deficits, and how they impact reading, writing and other learning tasks. I wouldn't dare to reteach it here, but if you have an opportunity to hear him speak, I would definitely recommend it.
The journey I've taken over the last year has been hard, with a huge learning curve and a lot of new territory. But in the end, I think it's helping me to be a better parent. If you're starting your journey, take heart. There are many ways you can help, and lots of resources out there to help you along the way.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Once again, Dr. Erica Baker has offered her expertise. Keep those questions coming!
Psychological assessments are most often conducted through schools, hospital settings or private practice.
School psychologists provide assessments in academic environments.
Information about psychological services offered through hospital settings is often available on the hospital website under a Psychology heading.
The Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia website (www.apns.ca) has a Find a Psychologist section that provides information about psychologists in private practice and the nature of their practice, including areas of interest or practice.
To arrange an assessment through a private practice, the parent typically contacts the practice directly. It is important that the parent feels comfortable and confident in the Psychologist and in the services that will be provided for the child.
Questions to ask:
1) What does an assessment entail? What areas of functioning does the assessment investigate?
2) Do you have particular areas of specialty (e.g., Learning Disabilities, non-verbal learning disorder, ADHD)?
2) How much is the assessment and what is included in that price?
3) If the assessment identifies learning challenges, will there be recommendations provided?
4) What differentiates your practice from others?
NOTE: Here's my tip of the day on having an assessment done by a psychologist in private practice. It can be expensive, but if you have private health insurance, either through your employer or otherwise, at least some of the cost may be covered under psychological services.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Angela Rudderham developed our social skills program, and is now leading our efforts to bring social skills development to youth and students in Nova Scotia. Here's her latest article from Parent-Child Guide.
Where’s the support for teaching social skills?
Angela E. Rudderham
Our children’s home life, school life and future success are all dramatically affected by their social skills - or lack thereof. Social skills include personal awareness and the awareness of others, the ability to read non-verbal communication and other’s intentions, perspective taking, the ability to communicate effectively, problem solving and emotional control, and the ability to initiate, maintain and repair relationships.
Our social development can be impacted by a number of influences such as brain injuries, lack of appropriate modeling, learning disabilities and ADHD. The good news is that social skills can be directly taught and social learning can occur.
You may find that despite your best efforts at teaching your child these skills, they may still need extra support. The question is, “Who can help?”
Your child’s school may have social skill training awareness and resources for teaching these skills. Make an appointment with the school and ask how they can assist in fostering social competence in your child. If they lack resources and/or training, you may want to advocate that they look at options for increasing their development in these areas.
Check out websites such as http://www.ldonline.org. By doing a web search you’ll find articles, lesson plans, activities, board games and videos that will assist you in providing social skills training to your child in a fun and positive way.
Seek workshops offered in your area. Signing up for newsletters or email notices offered by organizations that support persons with learning disabilities or autism should keep you in the loop when these workshops are being offered. These are excellent opportunities for learning as well as meeting people who share similar experiences or who may become a valuable resource in your quest for information.
Seek professionals such as psychologists, therapists, or speech and language pathologists in your area that offer social skill building.
Seek social skill groups your child can be part of. Although rare, these groups do exist. Social skills groups should focus on teaching social skills at the same time as offering opportunities to practise the skill being taught. The most effective groups will have small numbers, no more than six students at a time. They will focus on only one skill at a time. They will have a way to assess and attempt to measure the acquisition of skills. They will provide the parent with enough information so that they can help the child transfer the skill to other settings.
Check out books and DVDs such as “Raise Your Child's Social IQ: Stepping Stones to People Skills for Kids “, by Cathi Cohen, LCSW, “It's So Much Work to Be Your Friend, Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success” or “Last One Picked ... First One Picked On, Learning Disabilities and Social Skills,” both by Richard Lavoie and both are available in DVD format as well.
Social skills are skills your child will rely on every single day for the rest of their lives: in school, with peers, with family and eventually at work. We need to ensure we do our best to equip them with the ability to know and use these skills effectively.
Angela E. Rudderham is the Director of Behaviour and Social Skills at Bridgeway Academy. If you would like more information on developing your child’s social skills please contact Angela at 902-465-4800 or 1-888-435-3232 or visit www.bridgeway-academy.com.
Friday, October 15, 2010
7) What can a teacher do to support students with learning disabilities?
The fit between the child and his/her teacher is often paramount to a child’s success. If the teacher’s ways of teaching are a mismatch with a learner’s profile significant frustration can ensue. Both the teacher and student may need to put some work into the relationship and try compromising and acceptance (Levine, 2002). Success is more likely when a teacher understands the child’s learning profile, is willing to customize his/her teaching style to match the child’s strengths and needs, and can respond effectively to the need of the student with LD. Quality instruction should be flexible and geared toward the student’s needs. The teacher should be invested in the child’s learning process and be open and honest about whether he/she views the plan for the child to be ‘do-able’ and meaningful. Collaboration and ongoing communication between the teacher, student, parents and other professionals working with the child will be helpful in ensuring optimal functioning and the ability to manage a child’s learning profile. Teachers with knowledge of best practices in teaching LD students may be better prepared to choose strategies to meet the needs of their students. Teachers who do not have the training, or do not feel professionally prepared to meet the needs of an LD student should have access to support personnel with knowledge about LD and be open to professional development opportunities.
8) If a child has learning disabilities, how can a parent help to support them?
As a parent we can help to support a child with a learning disability by ensuring good management of the child’s learning profile. Effective management should help to ensure that the problems won’t worsen, that complications will be prevented, that we are working towards remediation of areas that may have broken down, and that we are helping our child maximize their strengths and abilities. Parents should understand how their child learns, help their child understand themselves, identify interventions to try to repair gaps and/or accommodations to bypass their weakness, cultivate strengths, and protect their self-esteem (Levine, 2002).
9) What resources should parents be looking for/asking for?
Parents are encouraged to be knowledgeable about their child’s LD. One excellent resource is http://www.ldonline.org/. Parents should ensure that their children’s difficulties are recognized and that appropriate interventions and supports are being provided. Early identification and intervention is essential. The parent can help to ensure that the student’s progress is being monitored through on-going assessment, that support services have been identified, that goals are meaningful, and that there is follow-through with respect to instructional decisions and academic programming. A child with LD will require more than the usual time to learn basic skills. If a student requires more intensive instruction to learn strategies and/or content, parents may wish to consider special placements (alternate settings). Alternate settings may provide a lower pupil-teacher ratio that allows for more intensive instruction, frequent monitoring of progress, direct instruction, and teachers with more specialized training.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
4) How are learning disabilities diagnosed?
If there is reason to think a person might have learning disabilities, observations from parents, teachers, doctors and others who are regularly in contact with that person should be gathered. If there appears to be a pattern of trouble, the next step is to seek help from the school administration or to consult a learning specialist for an evaluation.
A diagnosis of LD is usually made by a Psychologist or other learning specialist using a variety of diagnostic tools, including taking a history, performing an interview, and conducting a formal assessment of cognitive processing and academic skills. Areas of cognitive processing that may be assessed include intelligence, phonological processing, language, memory, visual-spatial skills, and executive functioning. Areas of academic functioning that are typically assessed include reading, writing, and arithmetic.
According to the LDAC criteria, a Learning Disability is diagnosed when an individual 1) has at least average thinking and reasoning abilities; 2) has one or more deficits in cognitive processing; and 3) is significantly underachieving in one or more academic areas as a result of cognitive processing deficits.
5) What does a diagnosis mean for a child's ability to learn?
By understanding how a child learns, and identifying his/her strengths and areas of need, there may be better appreciation of why the child may be struggling and how to effectively manage challenges. Teachers, parents and children themselves need to be able to observe, talk about, and work with learning profiles. All children are capable of learning, if they are taught the way that they learn. Learning disabilities affect every person differently, therefore the child’s cognitive processing profile must be considered and a process of trying different ideas and open communication among the child’s support team may be necessary to find the most beneficial ways to help a child learn. Strengths should be valued and recognized. Individuals need to find things to praise in a struggling child and make sure that the child doesn’t give up on himself/herself. Once identified, areas of need should be addressed through remediation, accommodations and/or modifications. The strategies that are used should be tailored to the child.
6) How do children with learning disabilities learn?
Once the problems with learning have been identified, learning can be tailored to the individual’s profile. When we discover that a skill is lagging we can work towards determining the best way to care for that skill. Cognitive and academic skills become stronger the more they are used. It will be important to scaffold new knowledge and skills, and to ensure that the focus of intervention is allowing the child to reach his or her potential. There must be a match between the child and the instructor as positive, constructive relationships are essential to realize potential. Effective instruction for students with learning disabilities should explicit, intensive and direct. This means that instruction for the child with LD should be systematic and clearly described, longer periods of instruction and opportunities for individual and/or small group instruction should be provided, and the child should be taught in specific small steps with feedback and practice. Students with LD also should be taught learning strategies - they need to know how to approach task and use knowledge to solve problems.
Come back tomorrow for my three final questions on how we can support students with LDs.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
1) What are learning disabilities?
There are several definitions of learning disability, but academic underachievement is a fundamental characteristic of these definitions. The definition provided by the Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (2002) is one of the most comprehensive definitions to date. Regardless of the definition, our real task is to determine which individuals require assistance if they are falling behind academically and to help individuals make it through periods when they feel inadequate.
2) What is happening in the brain of a person with a learning disability?
The brain’s ability to process, recognize, store, organize, retrieve or communicate information may be different in individuals with a learning disability.
3) How can a parent tell if their child might have a learning disability?
Some signs that suggest a possible learning disability include (National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, 2004):
• Trouble learning the alphabet, rhyming words, or connecting letters to their sounds
• Difficulty when reading aloud
• Trouble understanding what was read
• Trouble with spelling
• Trouble expressing ideas in writing
• Late learning to talk
• Limited vocabulary
• Trouble remembering sounds the letters represent
• Trouble hearing slight differences between words
• Trouble understanding jokes, figurative language, sarcasm
• Difficulty knowing where to begin a task
• Trouble organizing what he/she wants to say
• Difficulty retelling a story in order
• Confuses math symbols
• Misreads numbers
• Becomes lost in the middle of mathematical calculations
• Reverses numbers
Learning disabilities vary significantly from individual to individual. If a child is struggling to keep up with same-age peers in one or more areas that may include listening, speaking, reading, writing or mathematics, a learning disability might be a consideration (LDAC).
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Our son had attended public school for six years and for five years had been identified and supported through resources and accommodations in both reading and writing. As a grade five student he was at a critical stage in his learning and emotional development. He was frustrated and confused by his understanding of topics and subject areas, understanding that he could express orally but could not transfer to paper. At a time when his peers wrote paragraphs and short stories he continued to struggle to write sentences. At a stage of education when comprehension of text was necessary for math, science, social studies as well as ELA. Our son could not read beyond a grade one level. Our son was a social and out going student who actively engaged in conversation showing a keen interest in class discussion, investigations and activities. Bridgeway Academy placed him in a learning environment where he was learning with his peers.
Our first September our son entered Bridgeway he had difficulty reading sentences, the May-June following he had begun reading for pleasure. He could be found applying the skills he had been taught when trying to read the instructions for a new video game or a storefront sign. Our second year he had began reading Harry Potter’s The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Our son has continued to read for pleasure; he even requested a special notebook last summer so he could work on writing a story from his own imagination. When he first started at Bridgeway he could not write sentences. As a family we were thrilled at this new level of confidence he was demonstrating in a newly acquired skill. Currently our son is reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in preparation of the 7th movie release. Our recent meeting with our sons LA teacher at Bridgeway bought us the news that his reading has improved to the level that it is not the concern; they are working on his phonics and spelling skills.
Our household was also to experience change, the two hour or more battle sessions over homework disappeared. As Bridgeway parents we were not to help with homework, homework was to be an independent activity to reinforce the days lesson. I did not know what to do with the free time at first. But we soon filled it with new activities. The second most noticed change for us as parents was that we no longer had to enter into “battle mode” each time we met with the school over a concern. In public school (grade 3) we had once been told by our son’s teacher that she had no time to discuss our son with us. Bridgeway teachers and staff always have time for our concerns. My first meeting with the then Principal was shocking in its simplicity. I had gone to the school as our son was experiencing a problem with one of his teachers. I was fully prepared for a meeting of little result and much frustration. Instead I had a surprising discussion that most of the students were experiencing difficulty and that a new teacher was starting Monday. The problem was not the students but the teaching style. I remember leaving the school stunned. There was no conflict, no problem just a solution. I was to find out that Bridgeway’s approach to student conflict, and problem solving was very unique. Our son has been learning this technique for use both at school and at home.
Our son is learning to read body language and other clues for the social behaviour he misses due to his language disability. Social Skills is a class he would tell you is a “waste of his time” but he’s 14. We have watched him become aware of people in a way he never was. He was a very literal child and often was upset or frustrated by his perception that you lied to him in what you said. He did not understand sarcasm and implied meaning, higher order language and this often lead to conflict among his peers and with adults. He had been unable to attend Beavers, Cubs or soccer without parental supervision so we could “interpret” for him. He can now find in body language what he might miss in spoken language. He will point out to us that we are angry or frustrated just by noting our posture or crossed arms. He can recognize a joke or a teasing tone and he can make a joke or tease you. One of the funniest memories we have in our family was after he had been at Bridgeway some time and we had worked that weekend to split and stack our firewood. By Sunday evening I was somewhat sore and groaned each time I attempted to sit down or stand up. On one such occasion we were sitting to supper and as I eased my self into the chair he began to sing “She ain’t what she use to be, she ain’t what she use to be.” My husband, older son and I were stunned; the kitchen was complete quiet until we all burst laughing. I thanked him for leaving out the part about the “Old grey mare”. This was the first time we had seen his sense of humour emerging.
Keyboarding skills were provided formally, something we were attempting to teach our son at home to help overcome his difficulties with pen and paper activities keyboarding and computer skills are growing and he is enthusiastic about using the computer to complete homework and other tasks. He is learning to comprehend information presented on the computer, to read beyond the initial source for confirmation. A skill which in our modern school system with so much emphasize on technology is vital for safety. We listen to him now as he explains that you can find that on the “net” and have been amazed as he reads the “small print” to a contest or game site.
Our son had been experiencing significant stress and this was manifesting physical and emotional symptoms, we have seen a great reduction in this at Bridgeway. His attitude changed from “I can’t” to “I can but I do it this way” and now to “I did”. He is learning his personal learning profile and the skills of how to advocate for his own learning needs when he returns to the public school system. As parents we have received from Bridgeway extensive reporting and sample work needed to monitor his continued progress. His most recent Bridgeway Academy’s standardized assessment results showed growth in most areas of skill acquisition, Bridgeway will help him to use these new strengths.
Angela, a Bridgeway parent
Monday, October 4, 2010
Our son’s primary teacher first expressed concerns with our son’s ability to recognize upper and lower case letters, 5 upper and 4 lower in October 2001. In January 2002 he had progressed to recognition of 25 upper and 23 lower case letters. Sound/letter association was improving slowly and rhyming words were improving. By the end of grade primary he was reading books at the emergent level. In journal writing, our son used an initial letter-sound only for a word.
He is identified by his grade one teacher as a “tearful child”, but when attentive he absorbs readily what is being taught or discussed. He showed improvement in his reading skills but writing words continued to challenge him. Separating sounds is identified as a problem. Classroom noise is identified as a problem. Our son’s grade one teacher indicated at a parent/teacher meeting that he would normally have been identified as a student requiring resource assistance, but as a former resource teacher she felt she could provide him with the additional help he needed without having him removed from class for support. By the end of the year he was using the steps taught for reading with prompting and learning to find “just right” books. His grade one teacher provided a selection of “just right” books, for his daily practice over the summer. Our son’s writing had shown progress. He had learned some sight words and could write the first and last letter in an unknown word, though not always correctly. A delay in this growth development is noted at the end of grade one.
Our son is now identified by the public school system as a student requiring both classroom accommodations and resource support from the learning centre. Strategies are implemented to reduce distractions, provide daily assignment sheets, time extensions for assignments and structured study time. His reading material is reduced from grade level and spelling lists are reduced. Motivational strategies are used for structured and unstructured transitional times. Positive consequences, praising behaviours, classroom rules being kept simple and clear, nonverbal cues to stay on task, supervised communication notebook and time-out procedures are implemented. He is receiving services of a program support teacher and extra help time. Our son is beginning resource support with three 30-minute sessions in the six day cycle. This support is provided for both reading and writing strategies. By year end grade 2 he is improving slowly and developing slowly to articulate words and to hear and record sounds. Punctuation still needs prompting and he is having a hard time transferring his ideas to paper. Difficulty is noted with using skills such as spelling in written work. Again he has summer reading and written assignment to reinforce his skills.
Our son is identified by the public school system as needing a psycho educational assessment. Concerns are his emotional and behavioural well being. He is indicating fears and becoming anxious about not being able to keep up in class with his peers. He is again identified as a student requiring both classroom accommodations and resource support from the learning centre. Strategies are implemented to provide preferential seating, reading material is reduced from grade level, praising of specific behaviours, a supervised communication notebook and continued services of a program support teacher. During the grade three year concern increases for him both at school and at home. His teacher indicates he is reading below grade level, doing well on spelling tests but unable to transfer this to his written work. He is meeting all grade level requirements in math and enjoys both math and science. Avoidance has become an issue with writing tasks but he is observed to be keener on tasks that involve non-fiction materials. He continues resource support with three 30-minute sessions in the six day cycle. Our son’s remarkable memory is noted by his resource teacher but comprehension is being lost due to errors. Again a preference for non-fiction books is noted as he uses visual sources for clues. By year end he remains in the early stage of reading development…his writing needs support, he dislikes putting ideas to paper and is afraid of making mistakes. Continued resource support for grade 4 is recommended at the end of grade 3. He has daily exercises to complete over the summer to reinforce skills learned.
Classroom accommodations are continued, he requires preferential seating, personal cueing and the reduction of distractions. Presentation strategies are used to reinforce instructions and chunk material into manageable units. Grade level of reading material is again reduced along with the continuance of praising specific behaviours. He is on a waiting list with the public school system for a psycho educational assessment, his doctor is concerned about the stress he is experiencing in relation to his learning and refers him to the IWK Developmental Clinic who also recommends his school complete psycho educational testing while he awaits an appointment at the IWK. Our son continues resource support with three 30-minute sessions in the six day cycle. His report card indicated he began grade 4 showing characteristics of a reader in the early development stage of reading and his sight vocabulary remained limited. He completed grade 4 within the early stage of reading development. He finds it difficult to become involved in the writing process and often avoids writing tasks or refuses to become engaged in the process. He has no difficulty expressing his thoughts verbally; the challenge arises when the ideas need to go on paper. Success within the math program is again noted but his difficulty with showing his understanding on paper frequently makes it difficult to assess his mathematical understanding and skills and does not always reflect his strengths and understanding. Near the completion of the grade 4 year he remains on the public school waiting list for a psycho educational assessment…concerns over his health and learning profile are now such that his doctor, at the request of his parents, refers him for private testing.
Our son is scheduled for a private psycho educational assessment, August 2006. At the end of a full day of testing, the Dr. informs us that our son is experiencing several significant learning difficulties and will require further extensive accommodations and adaptations within the public school system. She will be providing a full report within a few weeks and recommends a meeting with all his teachers, his resource support, myself and the Dr. to address his learning needs.
We inform the school that our son has had a private psycho educational assessment completed and that the report is pending. Classroom adaptations are put in place temporarily until the psycho educational report can be reviewed. His report becomes available at the beginning of October but his school staff is unavailable to meet until Oct 25, 2006. The meeting is attended by the Dr., myself, the Principal, the Resource teacher, the Music teacher, his Social Studies, ELA, Math, Science and French teachers. At the meeting our son’s school receives a report confirming he has a language learning disability.
Recommendations are for our son to receive intensive remediation in reading, phonics and writing at foundation levels, such as the public school systems’ Reading Recovery program. We are informed at this meeting that the “Reading Recovery” program is mandated that it is available to a grade one student only; he is not eligible to access this remediation support at the learning centre in his public school. After four years of him receiving resource support from the public school system he remained an early stage reader, reading without fluency. The public school system had discontinued resource reports with school report cards (in grade 4), so detailed information about his progress in resources was no longer available.
Our son would benefit from language therapy for sarcasm and implied meaning, higher order language, and removal from French class, which was described as attempting to teach a third language to a child who had not mastered his first. His strengths are his memory, his abilities while working with his hands, math and his basic receptive language skills it is emphasized that these need to be encouraged.
At this meeting his school was resistant to providing him with an IPP program in language arts, expressing concerns that he did not qualify and that it would adversely affect his ability to attend higher education. After much discussion, our Dr. was very firm in explaining why he did qualify for an IPP program, and it was determined that he was to have an IPP in ELA and additional adaptations and accommodations in all other subjects. A letter would be provided from the Dr. requesting his removal from French and that the Principal would process a request for him to have a speech evaluation through the school. Our son’s schedule with resources would also be increased.
The public school system had provided our son with the following services:
• Resource support in the Learning Centre consisting of five 30-minute sessions in a six day cycle; 3 for phonics support, 2 for writing support.
• Removal from French class was approved – He received the support of a class room Teaching Assistant, when available, during this time.
• Formalized IPP for him in ELA.
• Evaluation and testing with the Speech-Language Pathologist was completed.
It was after this school meeting, after experiencing the resistance to an IPP program, after being told our son did not qualify for an IPP, after being told it would be several weeks or months before it would be implemented. We realized that he needed more; Bridgeway Academy had been mentioned once before to us. We began to make calls, investigate and research options, our son could not read and write and his school did not seem concerned. We were panicked by this.
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Sometimes you read a collection of facts that make you sit up and take notice. I came across these statistics on the impact of learning disabilities recently and wanted to share them here. From the number of us impacted by LDs, to the economic, personal and social costs, they'll probably have a big impact on you too.
Thanks to Carla Warwick and the gang at the Learning Disabilities Association of North Peel for allowing us to share this information on our blog.
1. Learning disabilities are a congenital neurological condition, which impacts the lives of children, youth and adults and affects all aspects of human functioning, including social functioning.
Reference: Report on neurological basis, The Lancet, February 1990.
2. One in ten Canadians has learning disabilities or 3 million Canadians.
References: 1970 Commission on Emotional and Learning Disorders in Children.
3. According to principals who participated in the first cycle of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), an average of 12% of children in their schools had a learning disability.
Reference:1997 Education Quarterly Review, Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 81-003-XPB, Vol. 4, no. 2 - Initial Results from the School Component, NLSCY.
4. One in 10 children received some form of remedial education during 1994-95. Children receiving remedial education often have multiple problems with the most common difficulties being a learning disability (51%) or an emotional or behavioral problem (23%).
Reference:1997 Education Quarterly Review, Statistics Canada, Catalogue no. 81-003-XPB, Vol. 4, no. 2 - Initial Results from the School Component, NLSCY.
5. 35% of students identified with learning disabilities drop out of high school. This is twice the rate of non-disabled peers and does not include students who are not identified and drop out.
Reference: Washington Summit on Learning Disabilities, 1994.
6. The Conference Board of Canada determined that dropouts from the high school class of 1987 will cost society more than $1.7 billion in lost taxes.
Reference:1997, Dr. Doherty, Zero to Six: The Basis for School Readiness, HRDC.
7. Adults with learning disabilities, who have not received appropriate education and/or training, typically hold a job for only three months. Employers when questioned, report that the reason for termination in most cases related to the person's social skills deficits rather than to any job skill problems.
Reference: Ontario Ministry of Labour, Handicapped Emploment Program
8. 45.6% of adult inmates with learning disabilities have previous youth court involvement.
Reference:1995, Learning Disabilities Among Canada's Federal Inmate Population, Larry Motiuk, Ph.D., Correctional Services Canada.
9. 50% of females with learning disabilities will be mothers within 3 to 5 years of leaving high school.
Reference:1994,Washington Summit on Learning Disabilities.
10. 15% to 20% of Canadians with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) also have a specific learning disabilities.
Reference: Dr. Dan Offord, Ontario Child Health Study, Chedoke-McMaster Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario.
11. 80% of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have a specific learning disability while 30% of children with learning disabilities have ADHD. Almost all children who have ADHD are identified in the school system as having a behavioral exceptionality.
Reference: Dr. Dan Offord, Ontario Child Health Study, Chedoke-McMaster Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario.
12. 30% of adults with severe literacy problems were found to have undetected or untreated LD. Reference: National Adult Literacy and Learning Disabilities Center, 1994
13. 75% of children with reading disabilities in grade 3 who did not receive early intervention, continue to have difficulties learning to read throughout high school and their adult life.
Reference: Dr. Reid Lyon's testimony before the Committee on Education and the Workforce, a committee of The US House of Representatives, July 10, 1997.
14. In a self-reported study conducted in Atlantic Canada, 13,549 students in grades seven to twelve surveyed found that:
8.5 % of students reported taking Ritalin and similar prescription drugs for recreational reasons, compared to 5.3 % who took the drugs for treatment of ADHD.
20 % of teenagers who are prescribed methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dextroamphetamine (Dexedrine) are passing the medications on to others.
14.7 % of them are sharing the pills with classmates, including a significant number who are being bullied out of their drugs or having them stolen
7.3 % are trafficking the drugs to their schoolmates.
According to the study, students who sell their medications are four times more likely to use marijuana and six times more likely to use other recreational drugs than other students. (alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs).
Reference: Canadian Medical Association Journal, Fall, 2001.
15. The most common long-term condition suffered by children 0 to 14 years of age is learning disabilities - HALS reported that 95,580 children aged 0 to 14 years have this condition.
Reference: Statistics Canada's Health and Activity Limitation Survey (HALS) 1991
16. Almost 50% of adolescent suicides had previously been diagnosed as having learning disabilities.
References:1985, Dr. Peck, Crisis Intervention Treatment with Chronically and Acutely Suicidal Adolescents - Youth Suicide (pp 112-122),New York.
1989, Young, Leenaars, Rourke, A Childhood Learning Disability that Predisposes Those Afflicted to Adolescents and Adult Depression and Suicide Risk - Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 22, Number 3 (pp 169-175) and numerous other studies.
17. Volumes of research have shown that 30% to 70% of young offenders have experienced learning problems. In the past two decades, the link between learning disabilities and delinquent behaviour has been examined and confirmed in both Canada and the US.
Reference:1976,Murray, D.A., - The Link Between Learning Disabilities and Juvenile Delinquency: Current Theory and Knowledge, Washington, US Government Printing Office.
1978, Dr. Carol Crealock, University of Western Ontario- Juvenile Delinquency: The Canadian Perspective, Behavioural Disorder 3:309-13.
1983, Dr. Peggy Koopman, University of British Columbia - Cognitive Disorders and Syntactical Deficiencies in the Inmate Populations of Federal Penitentiaries in Canada, Report to the Solicitor General of Canada.
1987, Dr. Carol Crealock, University of Western Ontario- The learning Disabilities/Juvenile Delinquency Link: Causation or Correction, Ottawa, Minister of the Solicitor General.
1987, The Relationship Between Learning Disabilities and Delinquent Behaviour, Learning Disabilities1:55-8.
18. The cost of detaining a young offender is approximately $100,000 a year.
Reference:1998, National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention, Andy Scott, Solicitor General of Canada
Friday, October 1, 2010
Today we're going to start with a remarkable young woman named Ellen. She spoke earlier this year at our annual fundraising event, the Silver Lining Soiree. She had the crowd transfixed by her strength and her honesty. These are her words, as she shared them in May 2010.
Ellen Benoit-Colling speech
Silver Lining Soiree
May 20, 2010
Ellen Benoit-Colling is a former Bridgeway Academy student. She attended the school from 2001-2004.
What do these people have in common?
Leonardo da Vinci
John F Kennedy
John Lennon and Winston Churchill.
They all had a learning disability. But it didn’t stop them from changing the world.
People with learning disabilities just see the world differently.
People with learning disabilities generally have a higher IQ.
People with learning disabilities are inventors, dreamers, doers, motivators, creators, composers, activists, and yes, even Presidents and Prime Ministers.
I have a learning disability.
I can read a whole book and couldn’t tell you what I just read.
I can’t do math if my life depended on it.
This is what my life was like before Bridgeway.
It was awful. I was frustrated at school and at home.
My grades weren’t good. All the comments on my report card were “Ellen doesn’t’t pay attention in class”, “Ellen is easily distracted by others,” “Ellen doesn’t’t seem to apply herself”.
But when I came to subjects like home-ec, tech ed and woodworking, I was above average.
My learning disability didn’t mean I was dumb. It just meant I had other talents.
But people didn’t understand. Even my own parents had mistaken my learning disability for what they called laziness.
So I went through school year after year, slipping more and more behind. I started hating school. I simply had no clue what the teachers where teaching me. It was like nothing stuck with me.
By the time I reached junior high, I found an easy way out: drugs. It was an easy escape from the pressure of school and life.
At first it was nothing major - just a few joints here or there.
But my grades got worse. I stopped caring all together.
Once I finished junior high, my parents decided maybe I needed to go to private school.
The class numbers were smaller. My parents hoped that would help. I didn’t even finish the year.
That was the year I found out I had a learning disability. I was tested for two days on every aspect of learning.
I failed math and reading but excelled in the hands-on and hand-eye memory department.
I also excelled in short-term memory.
This did not make me feel better about myself. I was still different from anyone I knew.
I had no one to relate to.
So the drug abuse got worse as well as my attitude toward myself.
I then felt I truly was stupid, dumb and lazy.
Because I didn’t finish school, I took courses through the mail.
I worked with a tutor.
She was a teacher from Bridgeway. She understood my learning disability.
With her help, I did much better with classes.
After the year of mail-in courses, I tried to go back to public school.
Round two of high school was good at first, but went downhill very fast.
I still didn’t have the help I needed from the school.
I found new friends and new trouble to get into.
Again I did not finish the year of school.
My parents were so frustrated with my schooling attitude, drugs and bad behavior, I was asked to leave home until I could get my life together.
I needed close to a year to find myself. It was a very hard lesson for a young person to learn.
In my year away from home, I got myself together and sober.
I was ready to try again.
I was off to a different school with an Individual Program Plan in place.
It was designed to help me learn and make me successful.
I got through the first semester then dropped out.
I was back on the drugs.
I was feeling like I was not going to ever get through life.
My mother took me to an open house at Bridgeway. I spent an hour touring the school.
They were learning in a different way. I didn’t understand how this would help me.
On the way home I was asked what I thought about the school. My words were, “I do not need to go to a school where kids are special. I am not retarded!”
A year later, it took my tutor Heather, a teacher at Bridgeway, to talk me into giving the school a chance.
So after a long time talking and thinking about options, my family and I decided to give it a try.
Again, I got myself sober. Ready to start my new lease on education and my life
I stepped back into Bridgeway.
I sat down with two people who have forever changed my life as I know it. Mrs. Low and Mrs. Scott talked to me about what I was going through and promised me that everyone here knows what I am feeling.
They made it clear that even though I may have given up on myself over and over, public school may have given up on me, they were not about to. In fact, they were going to help me fight for my life and my education.
I walked up to my classroom scared about what the day was going to bring.
The smaller class turned out to have some huge advantages. I got more one-on-one time with teachers. I got to know others struggling in the same way I was. We shared ideas, fears and frustrations together.
I made a very good friend that year. We were so much alike. We became attached at the hip. For the first time in my life, I found someone who was like me. We never had to speak about our learning disability, we just understood each other.
It eased the transition into my new world. School became fun. I understood what I was doing.
We did different projects, used our hands, and went on class trips.
The teachers went above and beyond to make sure that at the end of the day we got it.
If there was ever a problem, or you were having a bad day, Mrs. Low’s door was always open.
She never judged or jumped to conclusions. She would simply say, “Look around you, everyone here understands and no one is looking at you differently.”
In 2003 I graduated with an average of 83% two years in a row. It felt good to be done high school but there was still the outside world to deal with. Was I ready?
The first day of school came again. I picked up my friend to drive her to the new school. Now they had an actual school.
I stopped into see Mrs. Low and have a chat. She asked what I was going to do this year, I had no plans. We talked about my fear of the future and why I felt I was not ready.
At the end of the conversation I asked her if there was any way I could come back
And there was. I could come back and take some upgrading courses.
I was so happy to go back to school for the first time ever. I went home and told my parents I wanted to go back. I am sure my parents were floored, not that they had to find money for me to go at the last minute, but that this child who did not like school was begging to go back.
In less than a week I was back. One of the reasons I decided to go back was I felt I might do better with a chance at learning if I just had more time. I took repeat courses of what I did in public school and we used the better marks to get rid of the old ones.
Now I was feeling better. That was the best thing I could have ever pushed myself to do.
I was ready to take on college.
I went to NSCC and took Human Services and found many people including my instructor that had some form of a learning disability.
I left after Christmas. The course just wasn’t for me at the time.
Years went by before I tackled school again. I enrolled myself into hairdressing school and found I did not so bad at the theory part without help, and I was really good at the hands-on part. I used the tools I learned at Bridgeway and passed 11 months later. I love what I do and work very hard at it.
Now I stand before you not just a graduate from Bridgeway Academy, but a success story.
I came to the school in my late teens.
I had given up on myself and the school system.
Now I have an education I can be proud of.
And most importantly, I am proud of myself for all I have accomplished in a few short years.
All I needed was a chance to learn the way I needed to learn.
Bridgeway gave me that chance, as well as a second chance at life.
I would like to thank Mrs. Low for being the mother who didn’t take no for an answer.
I would like to thank Mrs. Heather Ingalls- Parrot for the push I needed.
You opened my eyes to see myself differently and understand the way I learn.
Lastly I cannot thank my parents enough.
I am a changed person for the better.
If it wasn’t for Bridgeway, I would not be here in front of you today.
I would not have an education; I would not be a wife or a soon- to-be mother.
I am only one of thousands of kids who have or will walk through the door of this school.
All we need is a chance.
Thank you, for this is the first step at giving someone like me a chance.