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 disabilities, or learning differences (LDs), 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 50 years of transforming lives in 2021, 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 in 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?” As noted above, 1 in 10 children has a learning disability. 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 know 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 some 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 $5. Just a small donation of $5 can make a huge impact!

How? From May 17th through the 28th, one generous LDS donor has made a commitment to match every gift of $5-$50 with an additional donation of $50. Participate in your community by giving $5. With the matched donation of $50, your gift will grow to $55! Additionally, all donations of over $50 will be matched dollar-for-dollar. If you join our network of change-makers today, we could 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 our posts and asking your friends and families to help raise funds for LDS with small gifts of $5—the price of one fancy coffee!— you can help this campaign go viral. By sharing and engaging others to donate and share, you will help raise our community profile and spread the message. Don’t think you can make a difference? We only need 200 people to engage with their community by talking to 50 friends and relatives to raise $550,000 for kids! Do you know 50 people? Can you engage your circle of friends and family to help children with learning disabilities?

Thank you for reading!
Sarah & Sierra

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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 and a former LDS parent. She saw how LDS transformed the life of her child and 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 BC, as well as 15 years of working with local nonprofits and building community.

Mission Makers: Mel—a family struggle and a love for theatre spark an interest in Speech Sciences

Mission Makers: Mel—a family struggle and a love for theatre spark an interest in Speech Sciences

May is Speech and Hearing Month, so we thought it was the perfect time to check in with Melissa “Mel” Henderson. You might recall Mel as the person who recruited Alice to LDS, as mentioned in Alice’s Mission Makers story, or you may have met her during an intake, instruction, or summer break camp. As the Learning Support Manager, Mel works with our instructors to design, implement, and monitor engaging learning programs tailored to each individual student. Most recently, Mel managed and instructed our PEERS social skill program 

Mel’s background is in one-to-one remedial instruction, and she has a bachelor’s degree in Speech Sciences. Mel’s future aspirations include a career as an SLP (speech language pathologist). “Working here [at LDS] has been a delve into the educational side, and so I feel that’s the track I’m leaning towards, but it’s all really cool.”  

“An SLP is an expert on your whole vocal tract, from your neck to nose!” explains Mel. Although a career as an SLP is most often thought of as focusing on speech therapy, there are various avenues of work. Some more clinical and anatomical, such as helping with swallowing or monitoring cognitive functions during brain surgery. Others focus on speech and social learning, which relates to the work LDS does for children with learning differences.  

For example, Mel and Lara, an SLP who works with us, ran a social-emotional learning program during RISE Summer Camps called Worry Warriors. This afterlunch time slot was used to teach students about their emotions and coping mechanisms to be resilient.  

Mental health is often affected by language-based learning differences as it can be challenging to process and express feelings. The rise of anxiety and depression rates among adolescents with learning differences further emphasizes for Mel the importance of SLP and working with youth. Her goal is to equip students with the confidence to believe in themselves to face any challenge.   

This goal was influenced by Mel’s own experiences growing up. Mel’s interest in SLP is rooted in her childhood passions for musical theatre and voice. SLP combines speech, language, and communication with technical aspects such as acoustics, psychology, and brain development, which together create a field of study that continues to keep Mel intrigued. However, Mel’s passion for working with children, especially those with learning differences, can be attributed to her childhood experience growing up with her sister who has a learning difference.  

“Seeing her struggle in school and how that affected her confidence in every part of her life growing up and what she sees for her future and knowing that I could work with people who are in the same situation that my family was in is really important to me.” 

Mel’s parents faced their own challenges in navigating her sister’s diagnosis, the school system, and finding additional resources for her sister, as options are not always obvious. Additionally, Mel notes how difficult it was for her mother, the primary caretaker, to advocate for her sister as she spoke English as a second language. Language barriers and financial barriers are all too real for many of our families we serve.  

“I just want to be able to make a difference and help people and provide resources that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise have access to because of finances or they’re not sure how. It’s not an easy process to navigate the school system with a learning difference, and so I want to be somebody who can offer that for families.” 

 

—Rie 

_________________ 

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. 

Spring Break Camp Review—Focusing on Mental Health with Stigma-Free Society

Spring Break Camp Review—Focusing on Mental Health with Stigma-Free Society

May 7th is National Child and Youth Mental Health Day across Canada. This year, LDS has taken strides to include mental health wellness and advocacy into our day camp programming.  

In March, LDS hosted two weeks of RISE Spring Break Camps with the support of the Government of Canada and the United Way Lower Mainland. LDS also excitedly announced our collaboration with Stigma-Free Society—a charity that aims to reduce stigma of all kinds, includinmental health and learning differencesWith their help and the fearless leadership of our Camp Coordinator Lindsay Underdown, LDS brought small-group, specialized programming with a focus on mental health and wellness to children with learning differences. Lindsay took the time to recap her experience and share the exciting events that occurred. 

Lindsay worked with LDS as an instructor at our first-ever RISE Summer Break Camp last year and built upon what shed learned to run the Spring Break Camps. For example, she was able to personally screen students to understand their diagnoses and areas they were actively working to address and accommodate them accordingly. Students were then grouped based on their social skills and learning outcome levels across our North Vancouver and East Vancouver locations. 

The days at Spring Break Camps were split between writing activities in the morning and mental health awareness and crafts in the afternoon. For example, students worked on their writing through poetry by creating haikus about positive self-talk. Lindsay removed the pressure of written output by allowing for flexibility of expression, such as drawing or having an instructor scribe for them, but most students still chose to write.   

Afternoons included mental wellness activities such as yoga, circles of control, and breathing and mindfulness exercises, as well as hands-on crafts. Students made fidget toys, Worry Pets, crafted toys to be their companions throughout the week, and painted rocks. The crafts gave students the opportunity to explore fun hobbies and activities that they enjoy, which can also reduce stress. 

Each week, presentations from the Stigma-Free Society taught students about mental health and featured a guest speaker with dyslexia and anxiety. During a presentation, one of the students with dyslexia burst out, “that’s what I have!” Lindsay says, “It’s amazing how much representation matters to the kids, probably more than they realize in the moment.” 

Lindsay also has dyslexia. She shares this with her students to normalize learning differences and to make them more comfortable with their own. Throughout camps, Lindsay was a positive role model by demonstrating how to handle situations where her dyslexia arose, such as casually asking instructors for spelling and moving along, not allowing it to stop her from being the best leader she can be.   

“Hopefully, they can see that it’s not a big secret or something stigmatized” in her classroom, she says. As the Spring Break Camp Coordinator, she was able to provide a positive representation of an adult with a learning difference for the students. Lindsay is passionate about being an advocate with lived experience to destigmatize and create conversations around mental health and learning differences. 

It’s also important for these students to be around peers with learning differences. In North Vancouver, one of the students had a recent diagnosis and was still struggling with identifying with the term. Another student at camp had a similar diagnosis but was very comfortable with their neurodivergence. Lindsay saw how by being around a peer who is confident with their learning difference, the student was able to themselves grow into themselves and started responding positively to their environment. 

“Sometimes, to reduce stigma, we just have to normalize it. In some sense, education is a great way to reduce stigma around many topics, like mental health. But for these kids with learning differences … they need representation and normalization.” 

Lindsay believes it’s important to start introducing and integrating ideas around mental health from a young age. In these formative years, students begin to form social bonds, beliefs, and doubts about themselves. Equipping students with techniques to deal with stress and emotions to maintain their mental health is vital to navigating their teens, which can be mentally and emotionally challenging. Children with learning differences are also at higher risk for mental health challenges, so by teaching social-emotional and well-being skills now, we can have a lasting impact on these students’ lives. 

LDS has opened applications for our Summer Camps, which will feature similar mental health awareness and wellness components. If you would like to apply, visit our page or read more about the program here. 

—Rie 

_________________ 

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: June—providing a transformative learning experience for students

Mission Makers: June—providing a transformative learning experience for students

June, an LDS remedial instructor, is a bubbly and energetic woman. Throughout her interview, June explained her adventurous and exciting life journey with such joy. From the way she fondly discussed the students she has worked with to how she described the neighbourhood near the LDS office as a “little Italian quarter with mountains in the background that reminds her of her time in Italy, June radiates happiness and laughter. 

June started her teaching career at an elementary school, but soon after she got the travel bug. She received her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate and began teaching across Europe. Eventually, she found her way back to England and was working on-call and volunteering in her spare time. This was when June was introduced to a young student with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), which prompted her interest in dyslexia and learning differences. June went back to university to train as a Specialist Dyslexia Teacher and soon started working as a one-to-one remedial teacher. 

The experience of one particular student truly impacted June. The student came to June without the ability to read due to his dyslexia. “I worked with him for two years, and I thought ‘this is really quite hard. He wasn’t making much progress, and then suddenly, it all fell into place: he was reading, received accommodations for his exams, and eventually went to university. “He was flying! June exclaims with a laugh. He was June’s first student and case study during university, and she grew very fond of him. June is proud to say he received an art degree and is now a graphic designer. 

June has her own experiences with challenges, similar to students with dyslexia. She struggles with directions, sequencing, and working memory. “We all have our good days and bad days,” says June, “but it helps with my understanding of the students.” 

When asked what her favourite part about working with LDS is, June rattles off a lengthy list without a second thought. “I love that it’s student-centred, the contact with staff, and that LDS is so accommodating. I love that I can mix and match and work in schools, online, and in the Learning Centre. And the kids!” June exclaims. “Everything is just ideal.” 

“I love my students, June says. “I work with so many talented students, every single one of them. So creative, athletic, they all do something and it’s amazing. But they just don’t know it.” June includes positive self-talk, relevant subject matter, and activities that interest students iher lessons with them. She emphasizes her students’ strengths and builds on their talents and interests to encourage them.  

The most challenging part of her job, June says, is the lesson planning. “You need to plan loads and loads of stuff because you never know just how the lessons are going to go,” she says with a laugh. June is very mindful of the multi-sensory materials she prepares for students and includes activities for brain breaks. 

“I hope I can give them a transformative learning experience, and they can use the tools and strategies I teach them in their lives outside of LDS, and that can make a difference in their confidence and self-autonomy.” 

 

—Rie 

_________________ 

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. 

LDS Sends Love and Strength to North Vancouver

Our sincerest condolences to the North Vancouver and Lynn Valley communities affected by this past weekend’s tragedy 

As a charity that strives to provide a safe space to learn for our students, we are deeply saddened that these crimes occurred in a gathering place for community and education.  

We hope we can soon reopen to the families we serve in this area and show that together we are resilient. In the meantime, LDS will be moving our North Vancouver sessions online this week out of respect for those involved and to ensure that our families are not unnecessarily affected by being in the area. 

Our thoughts are with the victims—may they recover quickly. And to North Vancouver’s libraries, businesses, and residents, our love and strength goes out to everyone impacted.  

Please know that the safety and health of our families are of the utmost importance to LDS. We encourage our families to reach out if they require further accommodations during these challenging times.  

With deepest sympathy on behalf of the LDS team,

Rachel S. Forbes, Executive Director

 

Mission Makers: Claire—advocating for accessibility

Mission Makers: Claire—advocating for accessibility

 “Some families come to us after being with a private tutor or organization because the services weren’t specialized or individualized for students with learning differences. More often than not, they were also financially inaccessible. I don’t think any child should go without, especially because of money, so if we can help, that’s incredible.—Claire, Program Manager 

For the last three years, Claire has been making a difference in our students’ lives through advocacy and her passion for teaching, first as an Instructor with the Learning Disabilities Society (LDS) and now as our Program Manager. 

Claire’s interest in educationspecifically her experiences as a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) at the University of British Columbia during her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writingattracted her to LDS. “I was a TA for many creative writing courses and saw a lot of students take creative writing as an elective. They thought that writing was easy, so they took it and then realized writing can be hard. I saw that struggle a lot, and it made me think about how writing must be even more challenging for people with written output difficulties.”   

As Program Manager, Claire oversees the onboarding and matching of instructors and students. For instructors, her tasks include recruiting, hiring, and training, which allows her to continue her passion for teaching. For clients, her role includes intake interviews, scheduling, and assisting with funding.  

During client intakes, Claire says, “we learn more about the child’s learning needs, their strengths, their stretches, and what their goals are. We talk about what we do and the ways we can offer support. Following the intake, I help families access internal and third-party funding: CKNW Kids Fund, Variety Children’s Charity Heart Fund, Jordan’s Principle, and Autism Funding Unit. If they are eligible, I’ll help them apply; sometimes I will help with literacy and numeracy skills to fill out the forms if those are barriers for the guardians.” 

This is part of what Claire calls advocating and, in this case, internal advocating.  

Advocating for the financial accessibility of our services and helping families is what Claire finds fulfilling in her job. Claire’s tone softenas she talks about her experiences helping families:   

“From my experience, people think of accessibility in terms of mobility and not so much as financialWhat I enjoy about my job is making our services more financially accessible. I come from a workingclass, single-parent family of two kids with no outside help. If my brother or I had needed any academic or social support that would have been challenging. Our sports were already so financially difficult for my mom, who never wanted us to be without. She got a paper route on top of her full-time job to support us. So, if there is any way that we can provide financial assistance, it means a lot to me.”  

Claire’s advice for families is to keep advocating for their family and their child(ren). “Or find people who can help because not everyone knows how to advocate. That’s also something we can do in small ways. That’s why I’m so passionate about the financial accessibility of our services: it’s a way we can help families advocate for their child.”   

—Rie 

_________________ 

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: Rachel Y.—a holistic approach to remedial instruction

Mission Makers: Rachel Y.—a holistic approach to remedial instruction

 

The Learning Disabilities Society (LDS) is lucky to have so many excellent and unique instructors to match with our students. One of these instructors, Rachel Y., is not only calm, patient, and kindhearted, she also brings a holistic outlook to her approach to remedial instruction.

Rachel’s varied work experience contributes to her current role of providing Research-informed Individualized Student Education (RISE) to students at our East Vancouver Learning Centre and online through our RISE at Home Program.

Rachel began her career by pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology, the study of human body movement. She then went on to help children with developmental delays, physical disabilities, and learning disabilities. She’s also worked with children to improve their academic, social, communication, and life skills. Rachel is delighted to see students making progress. “Giving children the tools to express themselves,” she says, “makes all the difference in their confidence and enthusiasm to continue learning.”

It was Rachel’s experience working individually with one student with physical and learning differences that taught her the importance of having a student-focused curriculum, something that is central to LDS’ RISE programming. By adjusting her teaching to coincide with the techniques and strategies the student best responded to, Rachel was able to see the student quickly make progress in their academics and social skills.

Rachel has also worked in children’s summer camps, community support projects, and social inclusion programs (working with participants with various physical and developmental differences). “My biggest take away [from these experiences] is that everyone should be able to participate in their community—pursue things they find interesting, goals they have, and feel confident in their place in the community. To me, this translates to LDS as: ‘students should be confident in themselves as kids, as members of their school and community, but also confident in their schoolwork.’”

Coming to LDS with an exceptional yet unconventional set of educational and work experiences, Rachel was a bit hesitant to apply. “To be honest, I was a little worried…I don’t have experience in a traditional classroom.” But she was excited to work with LDS, an organization with energy and focus. “At LDS, we are always pushing to grow and improve, whether that’s the instruction or new projects; that was really attractive to me. It’s exciting that everyone is always pushing for new growth.”

“Over time,” Rachel says, “I have gained more confidence. I realized that my education and experiences shape how I approach my work at LDS.” Rachel’s favourite aspect of working with LDS is approaching each instructor-student relationship from a different perspective.

While research, curricula, and teaching strategies guide Rachel’s instruction, she likes that she can apply and adapt them in a way that “makes the most sense for the student.” For example, if a student doesn’t like working with flashcards, Rachel will try turning things into a board game or customizing the worksheets to be themed in an activity that the student enjoys, thereby making it more engaging for them.

“Maybe it’s because I don’t come from a traditional teaching background,” Rachel explains. “I think that a student’s academic work is important, but it’s part of a bigger picture.” Rachel’s holistic perspective on remedial instruction and her interaction with students embodies LDS’ goal to impact our students’ lives beyond academics.

“I try not to look at things as strictly academic,” says Rachel, “even though the main objective is to support students in their academics. It’s important to remember [learning differences are] part of a bigger picture and to be supportive in other areas, like emotional support, social skills, executive functioning, and organization skills. Those are all parts of the picture I try to keep in mind to help build a more holistic approach, … [to build] rapport and trust with students because they’re not just coming to work on math or writing for an hour; it’s more than that.”

—Rie

_________________

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.

Black History Month at LDS

February marks Black History Month (BHM), but historical injustices, like systemic racism and oppression, are ongoing issues. As a charity that exists to serve all children and youth with learning differences, we are continually doing what we can to dismantle the internal and external systems that pose barriers to the full participation of students who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Colour (BIPOC). With this in mind, LDS will be celebrating BHM by amplifying Black voices, resources for the Black community, and Black-led organizations. 

Black Folks with Dyslexia   

  • Muhammad Ali was not only a celebrated boxer but also an outspoken activist. 
  • Octavia Spencer is the first Black actress to receive two consecutive Academy Award nominations and dyslexic.  
  • Harry Belafonte is one of the most famous Jamaican-American pop singers in history for bringing Caribbean music to the world in the 1950s. He was also a civil rights activist and a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. 
  • Whoopi Goldberg is a comedian and one of only 16 people in award history to accomplish an EGOT—winning an Emmy (TV), Grammy (Music), Oscar (Film), and Tony (Stage). 

Books with Representation

Representation in the resources we provide is important to LDS. These books authored or co-authored by Black authors share our core values of community, kindness, acceptance, and achievement. 

Black-led Organizations 

These organizations and non profits address historical injustices and help underserved groups like BIPOC youth by providing services and resources. Like LDS, these non profits are working to create change in our society and are essential for creating inclusive communities.

  • Foundation for Black Communities exists to ensure every Black person in Canada can thrive and all Black communities have agency in defining their own future. They ensure that Black-led and Black-serving organizations have the sustained resources they need to make a meaningful impact. 
  • Black Health Alliance is a community-led charity working to improve the health and well-being of Black communities in Canada. Driven by groundbreaking research and strong people and partnerships, this movement continues to build innovative solutions to create lasting change in the lives of Black children, families and communities. 
  • Black Youth Helpline offers Multicultural Youth Helpline & Services; Professional, culturally relevant youth and family assessments and intervention; Stay-In-School Initiatives; and Parent & Family Support. 
  • Hogan’s Alley Society advocates for Black Vancouverites who have endured the legacies of urban renewal and their erasure from the official historical narrative. Through their initiatives, they hope to build the capacity of racialized and marginalized communities to participate in city building. 

_________________

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.

Sierra Gemma (she/her) is LDS’ Communications and Fundraising Manager, working remotely from Lək̓ʷəŋən land on Vancouver Island. Sierra has a BA in History and Sociology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She enjoys community building, reading, and writing nonfiction, for which she has received a National Newspaper Award and a National Magazine Award. 

Mission Makers: Alice—connecting with kids!

Mission Makers: Alice—connecting with kids!

If you have recently stepped foot inside our East Vancouver Learning Centre, you’ve probably met Alice, our friendly Support Coordinator.

Alice comes to us from England but completed her Linguistics degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She fell in love with Vancouver while studying abroad at the University of British Columbia. This is also where she met Melissa “Mel” Henderson, who is our Learning Support Manager. Mel encouraged Alice to apply for a position at the Learning Disabilities Society (LDS).

Alice’s bubbly personality, coupled with that classic British wit, has made her a terrific addition and a hit with the kids. “I think they see a kindred spirit in me,” Alice says, “because I don’t take things very seriously and I enjoy having interactions with the kids.”

At LDS, Alice is the Jill of all trades. At different times, she acts as the office space and Learning Centre coordinator, executive assistant, or program administrator. When asked if she is the glue that holds this organization together, she scoffs.

“No. I would absolutely not say that,” she jokingly insists. “I would say I’m like… no I don’t have a metaphor for what I am. I’ll work on it though.”

Another of Alice’s many tasks is maintaining safety and operations as we continue to navigate COVID-19. Recently, Alice and Mel were faced with the problem of physically distancing students and their family members for PEERS, our teen social skills program. “We were just moving furniture around this room trying to figure out how we can space all these chairs out and it’s just so weird cause that’s day-to-day life now.”

Alice has also been key in screening students for COVID-19 before they enter the Centre. “A lot of our families have probably met me because I jump out of the front door ask them fun questions about the pandemic. It’s weird that part of my job is to ask if their kid has diarrhea.”

This highlights Alice’s unique relationship with LDS families. “I might be the first voice that they hear from LDS in our onboarding [process]. They get a phone screening with me and I set them up to come into the Centre. I hear family stories and sometimes commiserate with them. …It’s supposed to be a ten-minute phone screening conversation, but it’s often a half an hour of us just chatting, which is great.”

There are still moments of connection to be had even in these difficult times, and Alice’s relationship with our students is truly special. When asked what she finds fulfilling about working with LDS, Alice says, “interacting with the kids. In the lead up to Christmas, I hadn’t been around kids who believed in Santa for a long time. One of them walked up to me and said, ‘Merry Christmas, Alice!’ I said, ‘Oh! Thank you.’ And then he proceeded to ask me if Santa would still come and if Santa would have to wear a mask. I said, ‘yeah, Santa watches Dr. Bonnie’s announcements, so I think he knows what to do.’”

—Rie & Sierra

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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.

Sierra Gemma (she/her) is LDS’ Communications and Fundraising Manager, working remotely from Lək̓ʷəŋən land on Vancouver Island. Sierra has a BA in History and Sociology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. She enjoys community building, reading, and writing nonfiction, for which she has received a National Newspaper Award and a National Magazine Award. 

2020 RISE to the Challenge—your contributions will transform over 180 lives!

2020 RISE to the Challenge—your contributions will transform over 180 lives!

The Learning Disabilities Society (LDS) is excited to share the 2020 results of RISE to the Challenge! Through the kind generosity of our donors, our “$100k for 100Kids” campaign raised an amazing $181,461!

The thoughtful contributions of 214 donors will now enable us to support over 180 children and youth in 2021 with our expanded comprehensive programming. 

We were overwhelmed by your outpouring of support from your individual, foundation, and corporate identities—especially in the final weeks of RISE to the Challenge—and were touched by your heartwarming notes of encouragement.   

Coverage in the Vancouver Sun and on Global News raised awareness of LDS and the families we help. Many donors were inspired by our students’ stories of success, which centre on our core values of community, kindness, acceptance and achievement. 

Picture of a student form that says, "How LDS helps me move mountains: LDS helped me read much better."

We were delighted to hear that new programming, including our assistive technology and social robotics initiatives, social-emotional skills training, and family coaching, was so well received. We appreciate your investment into these programs and your trust in our mission.  

Thank you for making a difference for the students, families, and communities the Learning Disabilities Society servesWith your help, 2021 will bring further transformation in the lives of children with learning differences! 

Apply now for RISE TEAM! More Info!