2021: A year of growth and transformation

2021: A year of growth and transformation


Thanks to our growing community of families, students, partners and supporters, the year 2021 was filled with new and growing programs, further achievements from our students, and a lot of wonderful learning! We want to thank every person and organization who has joined us on our mission to transform lives of children and youth across British Columbia and provide them with expert, accessible and comprehensive learning supports 

In 2021, LDS continued to grow in order to fulfill our mission to serve all children and youth with learning differences. We saw a 30% increase in students supported by our programs, bringing the total to over 400 lives impacted throughout the year. To facilitate4 this growth, we welcomed many new instructors with diverse teaching expertise, new core team members to ensure our programs are run well and kept accessible, and new board members to help build our community and our depth of knowledge in many areas. 

2021 was also a year of finding innovative program offerings for an increasingly diverse student population. In June, LDS launched RISE TEAM, a life skills and employment transition program addressing the need to support teenagers graduating into the workforce or into higher education and offering meaningful volunteer opportunities to put their new skills into action. During the summer, we offered Intensive Intervention, a rigorous program designed to help students maintain and improve their foundational skills in preparation for the new school year. In the autumn, we brought to life LDS Access, an electric mobile classroom, bringing our RISE method of learning support right to students’ communities across the lower mainland. And in October, LDS launched Early RISErs, an early years education and intervention program to support growth in all aspects of a young child’s development, and guide parents in supporting their young child’s unique needs. We are taking our learnings from the first cohorts of these programs and applying them to further enhanced offerings throughout 2022! 

Collaboration, community, and new partnerships were also a theme of 2021. Many of our programs are only possible through the generous support we receive from individual and corporate donors and through grants. We were able to build partnerships with the University of Waterloo SIRRL on an exciting project investigating the impact of social robots on children’s learning and educational goals, and expand our partnership with the University of British Columbia to facilitate access to Psychoeducational Assessments for our families.  

Our workshops, outreach, and programming were made possible with community collaborations and support from Vancouver Public Library (VPL), Vancouver Society of Childcare Centres (VSOCC), Play Roly, and SmallTalk, among others. In 2021, our programs and impact received significant media coverage from outlets including CBC, Global, CTV, CKNW and Black Press.  

Every day we come to work at LDS because we are inspired by every aspect of our work. Through working with our students and families we have the honour and opportunity to make ongoing meaningful changes in the lives of children and youth with learning differences. This work provides us daily with opportunities to learn, grow, and collaboratively overcome challenges. We are so grateful and proud of how we have grown together. Thank you for your role in this success, and we look forward to sharing more successes with you as our journey continues! 

Join Our Community!

Join Our Community!

Why join our community?

Hello from Sarah and Sierra at the Learning Disabilities Society (LDS)! As the Community Manager, Sarah listens to the needs of people with learning differences, and creates an inclusive space for them in our community. Sierra is the Communications and Fundraising Manager, and her priority is to ensure that LDS effectively spreads awareness of this social justice issue and engages the community to participate in removing the intersectional socioeconomic barriers to success for children with LDs. As LDS celebrates our 50th year of transforming lives through learning, we are focusing on doing our part to make the world a better place. We believe this can be accomplished by building community. 

In Disability Visibility, Alice Wong says “community is magic,” and we could not agree more. For us, community is magical because it is our daily motivation. We are committed to social justice and equal opportunities for kids of all abilities. We head to work each day because we know the power of individual actions. We make sure every child we serve feels valued and seen and has the tools to recognize their own unique strengths.

There is power in community

Community is listening.
It’s about creating space for the experiences of children and youth with learning differences and their families. It’s about giving a platform to these stories. Listening to your community means having tough conversations about inequality, ableism, and oppression. 

Community is participation.
It’s about becoming involved in a meaningful way. It is about how we can do our parts—whether big or small—to make sure all kids have equal opportunities. Participating in your community can be as simple as connecting children and youth with opportunities so that families who need help get the support they require.  

Community is engagement.
It’s about creating an impact. It’s about building relationships and engaging others—our friends and families from diverse backgrounds and points of view—to understand the struggles of people who are different from them and what they can do to level the playing field for kids with learning differences. 

As Alice Wong explains, community “can become a movement for social change.”

How do we create change within our community?

One in 10 children has a learning disability. Without learning support, kids with learning differences will face disadvantages that kids without disabilities will never know, such as increased high school drop-out rates, and increased poverty, incarceration, and suicide rates. This impacts all of us.

By helping children with learning disabilities, you will impact the neighbourhood, the community, and society as a whole. According to the Vancouver Board of Trade, “Early interventions for disadvantaged children…reduce crime, teenage pregnancy and welfare dependency.”

But access to learning support is not equally distributed amongst all families. Children with learning differences from higher-income families are more likely to get the supports they need, whereas children from racialized, immigrant, low-income or lone-parent households are less likely to be able to find accessible, high-quality Research-informed Individualized Student Education (RISE). This is where LDS comes in.

LDS is the only registered charity in the Lower Mainland that offers affordable remedial instruction to children with learning differences. Since the global pandemic began, eighty percent of our families are eligible for financial support on our sliding scale. Please join our community in supporting these families.

How YOU can make an impact

1. Join our monthly newsletter.

Why? Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t know anyone with a learning disability! Why should I be informed on this topic?” Considering all the ableism and stigma against disabilities in our society, chances are that you do know someone with learning differences and you just don’t realize it yet. You listen to your community when you skim through our monthly newsletter. You’ll know what programs we are currently offering. Next time you meet someone with a learning difference, you’ll be able to refer them to a program that can transform the life of a child. What if it is your recommendation that brings a family to LDS? You will start a ripple effect that leads to societal benefits that impact everyone.

2. Donate! Even a small donation can make a huge impact!

Participate in your community by giving. Join our network of change-makers. Together, we can raise enough funding to help hundreds of children and youth with learning disabilities! As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” 

3. Follow LDS on social media.

Why? Following us on social media is a great way to engage with your community. By sharing and encouraging others to donate and share, you will help raise our community profile and spread the message. Can you engage your circle of friends and family to help children with learning disabilities?

Thank you for reading!
Sarah & Sierra


Sarah Vopni (she/her) brings kindness, positive energy, and a big-picture vision to our team. Sarah has a background in public relations and communications from Humber College and has a BA in Global Development from Queen’s University. She believes in the goals of LDS to support individual lives to help create positive change both personally and in communities.

Sierra Gemma (she/her) is the parent of an adult child with a learning disability. As a former LDS parent, Sierra saw how LDS transformed the life of her child and now she dreams of creating that change for all kidsSierra has BA in Sociology and History and an MFA in Creative Writing, both from the University of British Columbia, as well as 15 years of working with local nonprofits and building community.

LDS Access: Our Very Own “Magic School Bus” Comes to LDS!

LDS Access: Our Very Own “Magic School Bus” Comes to LDS!

LDS Access: our very own “Magic School Bus”

Have you ever wanted to take a ride with Ms. Frizzle on the Magic School Bus? Well, LDS is thrilled to announce the next best thing: LDS Access, a clean-energy mini-bus! 

LDS Access is Canada’s first electric mobile classroom service, coming to a neighbourhood near you soon! LDS Access will offer outreach services—including our Research-informed Individualized Student Education (RISE) and Assistive Technology (AT)—to children and youth with learning differences.  

Did you know that besides providing learning support services in our East Vancouver and North Vancouver Learning Centres, LDS also works in community schools across the Lower Mainland? That’s right, our highly specialized instructors go right into schools to help students! When the pandemic first came to BC, families at these schools not only had to cope with school closures, but many children also lost access to the RISE programming they received from LDS.  

LDS consulted with our community to develop a solution to the critical challenge of getting educational support to the children who need it the most. After significant discussion, we developed LDS Access—an outreach program operating as a “classroom on wheels.”  

LDS worked with local companies, Green Power Motor Company and National Graphic Solutions Inc. (NGSI), to create a customized, clean-energy mini school bus to support vulnerable children and youth with learning and related disabilities—our very own Magic School Bus! 

Award-winning artist Carson Ting was inspired by the LDS Access initiative. As a child, Carson had struggled with a learning disability and received special education, and he was excited for the opportunity to give back to the community. Along with his design firm, Chairman Ting, Carson created a bright and colourful external mural that wraps around the bus, capturing the essence of LDS’s mission, vision, and values.  

LDS Access also incorporates ground-breaking social robotics programming developed in partnership with the University of Waterloo’s Social and Intelligent Robotics Research Laboratory (SIRRL), as well as state-of-the-art assistive technologies (AT) provided by 16 AT sponsors, including Microsoft Accessibility, Mind MeisterTexthelp, and others.  

With the help of our network of educational, community, technology, and financial partners, we came together to create this unique, innovative, technology-enhanced learning support service for students most in need. 

What is LDS Access?

LDS Access is a classroom on wheels that brings RISE programming and AT devices, software, and equipment on the road to visit children with learning differences where they live. 

LDS Access features: 

  • Operates in spaces such as school and Community Centre parking lots and other publicly accessible spaces in underserved neighbourhoods. 
  • Serves communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19, namely those with a high percentage of families who face intersectional socio-economic barriers, including financial, language, disability, or educational barriers. 
  • Adapts our service—which is already financially accessible—so that it can be physically accessible for those who cannot get to our Learning Centres and for whom remote learning is not appropriate. 
  • Provides customized solutions and assistive technologies (AT) that improve student learning outcomes. 
  • Ensures physical distancing and additional COVID-19 protective measures through the design elements of the mobile classroom.  

Want more access to LDS Access?

To learn more or to sign up for a tour of the bus, please visit our LDS Access webpage 

To learn about LDS’s other assistive technologies or our AT Studio—a space dedicated to the collaborative use of leading-edge AT to help our students with learning differences—please email our AT Manager at AT@ldsociety.ca. 

Mission Makers: Cynthia—making a difference through her work

Mission Makers: Cynthia—making a difference through her work

Cynthia, a certified BC teacher at a specialized school for children with learning differences, has spent the last three years as a part-time Remedial Instructor with LDS. She feels that LDS is a further extension of her work in schools and a way to fill the gaps in educational support that may be unavailable in the school system.

Teaching at LDS “is a way of doing what I love doing, but in a different capacity,” says Cynthia. Providing one-on-one remedial instruction is a very different dynamic to her work as a teacher with a classroom full of students. But it brings her a sense of pride when she’s able to use what she has learned from her past teaching opportunities to provide accessible individualized education for students.

Cynthia has always enjoyed learning about how different minds work, including those with learning differences, which is why she pursued a BA in Psychology. Although Cynthia was unsure of what she wanted to do with her Psychology degree, with exploration and curiosity, she applied for her teaching diploma.

Cynthia chose to study Education for her teaching degree and experienced a range of different teaching styles and environments. She again explored various teaching experiences such as teaching at Montessori schools and in an English as a Second Language program.

Cynthia found her current career path with students with learning differences upon returning to Canada after teaching abroad. She had worked with students with autism in the past and remembered the feeling of making a difference through her work and the pride of accomplishment the students experienced with her help. So, when applying for jobs, she applied to the specialized school where she now teaches children with learning differences.

“It’s fun, always changing, allows me to be creative, and is challenging,” says Cynthia about why she enjoys teaching. “I like working with children and learning about what they’re interested in, and deep down inside, I think it keeps me young.”

For Cynthia, it’s essential that every student has the opportunity to learn in a way that best suits their needs, and LDS can provide a space for this. Connecting with her students is important to Cynthia. With the age group she teaches at LDS, they are old enough to be socially aware and have critical thoughts, which can lead to interesting conversations.

Using her knowledge about what her students are interested in and what they find relatable, Cynthia curates her sessions around these topics to keep her students engaged. She has found this creates an environment where students want to attend their sessions and are willing to learn. Receiving feedback from her students’ parents about the changes they see in their children, such as volunteering to read at home or seeing their confidence grow, encourages Cynthia to continue instructing.

“Growth is slow, but when it does change, it carries on to all other aspects of their life, which is exciting.”



Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the  Communications & Fundraising Assistant at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Kaleigh—providing play-based and arts-informed teaching

Mission Makers: Kaleigh—providing play-based and arts-informed teaching

At LDS, we value the varied backgrounds and passions that our instructors use to relate to our students or further enhance their instruction. In the case of Remedial Instructor Kaleigh, her background is in the arts, she has a teaching degree, and she is pursuing an acting career. Her many pursuits add value to her work at LDS because they provide her with a vast knowledge of teaching styles to help her relate to our students.

Kaleigh has a Fine Arts degree in Theatre and a minor in Psychology. For Kaleigh, psychology shed light on how or why a person expresses themselves in a certain way, and drama was one of those ways, so her major and minor went hand in hand. This unique education allows her to be a very empathetic teacher when providing one-to-one instruction. Kaleigh is quick to notice when her students require a brain break or different teaching forms, such as visual or auditory. And as all fun drama teachers do, Kaleigh engages her students in games and takes a play-based teaching approach.

“It’s more important now more than ever to think outside the box,” says Kaleigh about her experience as a teacher. Kaleigh’s arts background has taught her to be adaptive and think quickly to take on whatever may be occurring in the classroom. She also emphasizes how she is a visual learner who grasps concepts best through examples and play, informing her teaching style, especially when academics are challenging for diverse learners. At LDS, there are learning outcomes to be met, and Kaleigh’s knowledge and skill set allow her to adaptively teach in an engaging way so that each student can meet those outcomes.

Kaleigh has always enjoyed the arts and music but was not introduced to drama until high school, where she took it as an elective. She enjoyed studying the arts in higher education because of the supportive community that thrives in this field. Participating in theatre requires social skills and communication and is a breeding ground for collaboration. “Whereas other areas of academics are about answering questions correctly,” says Kaleigh, “the arts are more about the process and how a student approaches the problem.”

One of Kaleigh’s favourite things about her job with LDS is that she can help her students grow and watch the “light bulbs turn on in their heads!” while she works in the arts in her spare time. Kaleigh believes all children can benefit from being involved in the arts and that art helps kids learn self-regulation and social skills while still having fun. Kaleigh also advocates for media representation and creating space and accessibility within the arts for those with different abilities. One day, she hopes to develop a program to bring the arts to children with learning differences.



Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

Mission Makers: Sarah—creating community at LDS

Mission Makers: Sarah—creating community at LDS

“Since joining LDS as Community Manager, Sarah’s work has been fast-paced and ever-changing. Initially hired for a part-time, remote position, within weeks she was packing up her life in Ontario to move across the country to take on a full-time role in Vancouver. This speaks volumes about Sarah’s work ethic and adaptability. As the Community Manager, her current responsibilities include fundraising campaigns, community advancement, special projects, and communications. Her role combines her desire to strengthen community and create change. 

At LDS, community means a place that is both inclusive and accessible. Sarah emphasizes and relates to the aspect of her job description that is to maintain the “health and well-being of our community.” She goes above and beyond to hold space for each student to feel heard and valued. 

Sarah has a Bachelor’s in International Development, which helped develop her critical eye for analyzing both macro- and micro-level problems. She then received a Graduate Certificate in Public Relations, which gave her the tools to bring solutions and a big-picture vision to organizational issues. She gained experience in communications positions at large corporations but did not find the competitive, sales-focused environment motivating or fulfilling.  

Her education and her mother’s career as a social worker inspired her to want to take on a career beyond the typical, corporate Public Relations (PR) or Communications job path. “I didn’t know I wanted to work for a nonprofit organization,” says Sarah. “I just knew I wanted work that aligned with my desire to create systems change,” and she realized she could do that by working for a nonprofit. 

Sarah found work as a Project Manager at a private school that served children with learning differences. She enjoyed being able to exercise her creativity to complete big-picture projects and initiatives. Sarah appreciates PR’s earned media aspect and interacting with customers and clients to find solutions to their issues and listen to their stories, which helped guide her to her current position. 

At LDS, there are service deliverables and a mission as there are at many other nonprofit organizations. But what stands out to Sarah is “our work in advocacy, in transforming individual lives of children and youth, and bringing attention to the issues that face our society as a whole.” Sarah believes that the importance of LDS and nonprofit organizations is that they go beyond finding a temporary solution and work to solve the root of the problem to create lasting change.   

Sarah’s favourite part of her job is working on large projects that make LDS stand out, as she likes project-based work where she can create, design, and bring her visions to life from start to finish. “I feel personally motivated by the projects we are doing and inspired by the people I’m working with,” says Sarah. 

About her time at LDS, Sarah feels that she is part of a well-oiled machine on a long-term mission to help children with learning differences; one that will create a more accessible and inclusive community and, eventually, bring systems change to our society.  

“We all contribute differently,” Sarah says. “Most of my work is on the communication and fundraising side of things, while others are part of program delivery or finances. Everyone plays a different role, but we are all working towards the same overarching goal.” 

Alongside her Community Management role, Sarah is working towards a Non-Profit Management Certificate at Simon Fraser University to take a new approach to management and support LDS to reach its vision and mandate. 



Rie Stadnichuk (she/her) is the Digital Communications Specialist at LDS. Currently studying Communications and Economics at Simon Fraser University, she hopes to use this opportunity as a way of exploring meaningful work in the field. She is passionate about social issues and creating environments of inclusivity and open dialogue. Rie graciously lives and works on the unceded territory of the Syilx people. 

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