Catching Up with Hallie, a RISE TEAM Graduate

Catching Up with Hallie, a RISE TEAM Graduate

It’s been three months since Hallie, a 16-year-old high-school student from Fawkes Academy in Burnaby, was last at our East Vancouver Learning Centre, and a lot has happened since then. She is one of two RISE TEAM participants who, after having volunteered as junior leaders, were offered employment as Learning Centre Assistants last Fall. Hallie additionally had the opportunity to be part of the Early RISErs team from January to June as a Program Assistant. Working between 5-15 hours a week, she greeted visitors, answered phones, helped to create learning materials, prepared and cleaned up after snack time, and interacted with preschool-aged children and their families. She not only honed her professional skills (e.g., answering the phone professionally and learning to use a timesheet for the first time) but also worked on her interpersonal and social media skills.  

Building confidence was another key skill Hallie developed during her paid employment opportunity at LDS. This was evident in Hallie’s ability to share her experience with United Way staff members during a visit to LDS. Hallie’s ability to share her challenges and growth in terms of professional and personal development was an integral part of LDS receiving further funding for the RISE TEAM program. Since graduating from the program, she was able to secure more part-time employment and put all her newfound knowledge and experience to good use.  

“I worked at Playland in the summer, at the concession. They asked me if I could be a grill cook, so I did that, too,” Hallie explained, adding that she’d be back there for Fright Nights, Playland’s Halloween-themed experience.   

“I also took the babysitting course. I felt a little nervous at first because I was the oldest one there, but I got a score of 97.9% at the end of it.”  

It turned out that what she’d learned during the RISE TEAM program and EARLY RISErs work had translated well to babysitting and she was able to help look after a boy that her family knew very well—they carpooled together—and his younger sister, too. Despite some early reservations about the high level of responsibility that would come with the job, as an Autistic teen with ADHD and learning differences, she was able to interact well and care for the neurotypical children and give their mother some valuable support.  

Now a grade 12 student, Hallie is facing the challenges that come with that senior year and is determined to stay focused and keep working hard, traits that she partially attributes to being a Capricorn. To balance off the demands of school, she enjoys going to church every Saturday with her family and has a few hobbies, including baking and cooking, crossword puzzles, and, most of all, music and concertgoing. And she manages to find opportunities to learn and grow in everything that she does. Her latest task is: Get better at persuasive writing, not only to acquire a new skill but also to convince her father to let her attend yet another concert this year.   


The RISE TEAM program combines LDS Research-informed Individualized Student Education (RISE) with additional Training to advance their Employability, Abilities, or support Matriculation (TEAM). Thisinnovative employment readiness projectisdesigned to help teens with learning differences transition from high school to paid employment, training, or higher education. 

Thanks to generous donor funding from the United Way, LDS has spaces for students in grades 10 to 12 to complete the RISE TEAM program this school year. This includes paid work experience at LDS. 

To learn more about RISE TEAM, click here. You can also call us at 604.873.8139 or email 


















LDS presents recent research at the 14th International Development Coordination Disorder (DCD) Conference

LDS presents recent research at the 14th International Development Coordination Disorder (DCD) Conference

We are pleased to be attending and presenting our recent research at the 14th International DCD Conference, hosted by University of British Columbia’s Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy from July 6-9, 2022. Our Director of Education, Dr. Jenn Fane, will share with attendees the aim, details, and successes of our interdisciplinary early intervention program, Early RISErs, for children aged 3-5. 

We would like to thank our Speech Language Pathologist, Penelope Bacsfalvi; Assistive Technology Manager, Mike Gray; Marlo Humiksi, instructor; and the University of Waterloo’s Social and Intelligent Robotics Research Laboratory for their support in integrating our socially assistive robots into our Early RISErs programming. We sincerely appreciate and value their continuous contributions to this program. 

Some excerpts from our research poster presentation are provided below.



Interdisciplinary early intervention programming offers comprehensive supports and targeted referrals for young children and their families which help them to navigate the complexity of childhood health and education systems. 


Young children with developmental disabilities, such as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Developmental Language Disorders (DLD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Attention Deficit Hyper Activity Disorder (ADHD), face significant barriers to participation in early years opportunities due to their unique challenges and needs. These barriers make it difficult for parents of young children to access the programming and professionals their children need to support their development.  


To bridge this gap, we have piloted an early years parent-participation preschool-aged program that brings together Early Years Researchers, Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Occupational Therapists (OT), Behavioural Interventionists (BI), Early Childhood Educators (ECE) and Kindergarten Teachers to create an inclusive program where children work with a range of professionals each week.  

The program focuses on key areas important for young children’s development including speech and language, social skill development, and gross and fine motor skill development, early literacy and numeracy, and self-regulation.  


The program pilot has served dozens of young children and their families since autumn 2021 with a wide range of developmental disabilities, offering parents opportunities to connect, consult with, and be supported by early years professionals working with their children in an inclusive group setting. Through their participation in the program, parents gain a deeper understanding of their child’s strengths and stretches, and strategies that support their participation and integration into group educational settings.  

Relevance to “DCD in the Real World”  

Feedback from parents and other service providers suggests that integrating DCD focused screening and support into an interdisciplinary early intervention program is addressing a significant area of need for parents with young children with developmental disabilities who face barriers to participating in programs and services that meet their needs. 

Program Details 

LDS Early RISErs brings together Speech-Language Pathologists, Kindergarten teachers, Early Childhood Educators, Behavioural Interventionists, and Occupational Therapists to offer families a unique technology-embracing program that provides assessments, skill learning, parent networking and strategies to overcome children’s challenges by leveraging strengths. Early RISErs is an early childhood education and intervention program with parent/guardian participation that focuses on equipping families with knowledge about their young child and their learning and development to date. 

The program, designed and facilitated by early childhood experts, focuses on key areas of learning and development including early literacy, early numeracy, speech language acquisition, social and emotional learning, and physical literacy to give families a detailed snapshot of their child’s learning and development to date, and engage young children in hands-on learning opportunities carefully scaffolded to individual child’s needs. 


You can find the link to our full poster presentation here.










Inclusive Language Toolkit from Stigma-Free Society

Inclusive Language Toolkit from Stigma-Free Society

We are very proud to have worked with the Stigma Free Society to contribute to a fantastic resource, the Stigma-Free Glossary. It provides a comprehensive understanding of the types of language to use when referring to an individual from a specific community or identity category. It provides a wide variety of definitions and terms to educate readers about inclusive language. At LDS, we continuously work on ways to be more inclusive and welcoming; the Stigma-Free Glossary is a great tool that enables us to practice this and help others practice this on a day-to-day basis.  
As SFS acknowledges in their materials, not all terms are universally preferred by everyone within a community and we urge you to always ask what terms people prefer and be open to learning about their preference. Self-determination is key for inclusion to advance. 
To learn more about how to use more inclusive language, check out the Stigma-Free Glossary here

How we build fairness and equity into our fee structure

How we build fairness and equity into our fee structure

Thanks for clicking on this link to learn more about how we set our fee structure for families we work with. Our goal is for our fees to be fair, equitable, consistent and accessible; this post helps to explain how we achieve that. 

As you are likely aware, LDS is a nonprofit charity with a mission to provide high-quality, individualized, comprehensive learning supports to children, youth and adults to help them build the skills and confidence they need to succeed in life. We take that mission seriously, and so we are always looking at ways to ensure our services are inclusive and accessible for everyone, including financially.  

That commitment to accessibility is why all of our services are offered on a sliding scale that takes into account net household income. 

The ‘full fee’ amount that we charge is still a subsidized rate that does not fully cover our costs as an organization. We work hard to fundraise via several dozens of grants and many hundreds of donations every year to ensure our fees are kept accessible. At the same time, we need to make sure we are bringing in enough revenue via donations, grants and fees that we can afford to pay the team of experienced, caring, specialized and dedicated instructors and staff that deliver our programs and services.  

So, even when a family is being offered a $10, $15 or $70 an hour sliding scale fee, we at LDS are working to subsidize the balance of that hourly fee – potentially including by requesting you work with us to obtain third party funding via CKNW Kids Fund or Variety Children’s Charity, as those are also critical components of our budget.  

In 2020 we made a very small fee adjustment, and in 2021 our fees held stable. In light of the ongoing impacts of the pandemic, inflation, and our need to retain the professionals in our team that we all rely on for specialized service, in 2022 we have adjusted our fee scale. We say adjusted because, although the top range of fees has increased, we made significant efforts to adjust the different levels of our fee scale to make these steps more consistent and have also added another option for families whose household income is less than $30,000 annually. Again, we strive for fairness, equity and accessibility across the scale and across our programs and we feel these changes help us achieve that.

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In addition, we are always seeking out special funding opportunities to make some of our programs further accessible and sometimes free of charge to qualifying students and families. We are constantly scrutinizing our processes and practices to ensure that we are operating as efficiently as possible to keep our costs down.  

If you have any questions or concerns about our fee structure, our other grant-funded programs and initiatives, or would like more information, please reach out to us anytime.  

Thanks kindly for your time reading this and continuing to be a valued part of the LDS community. It is our honour to be working with you and your family; please always feel free to reach out to let us know how we can better serve you. 

Yours truly,  

Rachel Forbes 
Executive Director


Is my child ready for school? What else can I do to prepare them?

Is my child ready for school? What else can I do to prepare them?

For many families of young children, the infant and toddler years seem like the toughest. Between little sleep, feeding and potty training – raising the smallest humans is a stage many look forward to moving past. However, as families arrive at the preschool years (three-to-five), new sets of questions, challenges, and worries can emerge, while possibly still battling with the challenges of sleep, feeding, and toileting you had hoped you left behind! 

While the preschool years are an exciting time when your child’s individual personality, interests, and strengths emerge, this is also a time where lots of questions about your child’s development, behaviour, and learning emerge. One of the biggest challenges that families of pre-school children face is, after finally finding a spot in a high quality early years program, then learning that their child might need additional supports or identifying areas where the family may need more guidance about their child. These challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic, where access to childcare and preschool, child health and development services, and early years screening and assessments have been increasingly difficult to both find and afford. 

LDS’s Early RISErs program was developed by a team of interdisciplinary early childhood experts who are also parents. We understand from all angles the challenges young children and their families are facing. This post is dedicated to the most common questions and concerns we see and hear from families with young children, and the ways in which families are able to receive support for these challenges in our Early RISErs program. 

How do I support my child with transitions? 

For adults, transitions are generally a normal and expected part of everyday. We wake up, get dressed, eat/drink, and head out the door on our way. For young children, however, transitions (no matter how frequent or common place) can be an instigator of challenging behaviour such as anger, crying, screaming, refusal, or aggression. As young children also make the large-scale transition to starting school, these transitions become an increasingly rigid part of their days.  

Supporting young children and their caregivers with transitions through modelling, strategies, and scaffolded support is a key element of Early RISErs. Opportunities to learn and practice transitions in an inclusive and supportive space with a high ratio of early years professionals allows children the space to grow in their ability to self-regulate during transitions and move between activities and places in a ways that reduce challenging behaviour. 

Why does my child act completely differently at daycare/preschool than home? 

Have you received a note, comment, or incident report from your child’s care provider that surprised you? Did you think ‘that doesn’t sound like my child’ and are unsure how to further support your child with a behaviour, issue, or social interaction that you haven’t previously observed? Young children act differently outside of the home and away from primary caregivers. It is very common for a generally friendly child to suddenly be hesitant or struggle to interact socially in a setting with many children and only one or a few adults. It’s also common for a child who is generally able to self-regulate throughout the day at home to sometimes exhibit challenging behaviour in a group setting.  

As a parent or caregiver, it is hard to understand what is happening for our child when we are not there, and this lack of information can be challenging when all we want is to support our children and help them to develop the skills they need to navigate social and educational experiences with increased independence. The Early RISErs program has been developed to have an ideal amount and length of activities and transitions to allow young children a chance to develop their skills and an opportunity for parents and caregivers to see first-hand where their child is at, and identify with our early childhood professionals what targeted support could be helpful. Families learn strategies that can be employed at home and communicated to other care or educational environments to provide your child with more consistent support and communication across their daily lives. 

Does my child need extra support? Where and how do I find it? 

‘Should I be concerned…?’ is the most common phrase we hear when speaking with parents of young children.  

What warrants a concern? Is this ‘normal’? Is there something more I can do for my child? These are all questions most families have encountered with their children. And then, if a concern persists, there are more questions. Does my child need to see a Speech and Language Pathologist? How do Occupational Therapists support children with sensory challenges? What is the difference between a behavioural consultant or behavioural interventionist? How do I get an assessment for my child?  

Navigating waitlists, referral processes, and identifying professionals and clinics can be extremely overwhelming for families who are seeking further supports.  

To support families in connecting with and receiving specific information about further services or professionals that their child might benefit from working with, the Early RISErs team consists of a registered speech language pathologist, early childhood educators, early childhood researchers, kindergarten teachers, behavioural interventionists, and a consulting occupational therapist who observes and meets with all children and families during the course of the program.  

Developing an interest in reading, printing, letters, and numbers is a key focus in early childhood that and an important part of the Early RISErs program. However, the most crucial skills and areas for development for young children as they prepare for school is social and emotional learning. Social and Emotional learning (“SEL”) is composed of 5 key areas which are important for all stages of life: self-awareness; self-management; responsible decision making; social awareness; and relationship skills.  

Because of the diversity of program staff, we are able to make targeted suggestions and referrals to families to help connect families with the supports they need quickly and seamlessly. 

Is my child ready for school? What else can I do to prepare them? 

For three-to-five year old children to develop these skills, they need to have opportunities to engage with diverse people and peers in a range of environments to develop their abilities to engage in play, navigate risk and conflict, increase their independence, and effectively communicate their needs and wants.  

The Early RISErs program integrates these key social and emotional skills throughout the program to weave opportunities for growth throughout groups times, play, structured learning activities, and transitions to support children in making successful transitions to their new school environment.  

Questions about the Early RISErs program or your child’s learning or development? Don’t hesitate to reach out to with any questions, ideas or concerns – call 604.873.8139, email us at, or explore resources on our website  

The next Early RISErs cohort starts in April 2022 – contact us now!

Written by Jennifer Fane, PhD, LDS Director of Education, who is also a parent of a young child and a former Kindergarten teacher, teacher-trainer. Read more about her at

LDS values inclusive education

LDS values inclusive education

LDS is firmly rooted in the philosophy that Inclusive learning lies at the heart of effective education. Based on the fundamental principle that no two learners are alike, inclusive education refers to the way in which the educational community supports and addresses the individual needs of each learner, whatever they may be.

In the context of diversity and equity, some learners may experience barriers to learning and at LDS, we work towards empowering our learners by reducing these barriers and enabling them to access their learning journey.

Regardless of their strengths and needs, at LDS, we believe all learners have the right to an effective and meaningful educational experience and aim towards the inclusion and empowerment of all learners. Improving the quality of inclusion within our educational system improves education for all, and we recognize that though this paradigm shift is still being sketched, it is the initial step towards creating a well-established and cohesive community.

If you have ideas and feedback on how we can continue to improve our inclusive education practices, please reach out by email, phone or drop by.

Get Individualized Support for All Unique Learners Today!Find out more!