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

_________________

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! 

Mission Makers: Sierra—propelled by her experience as a parent

Mission Makers: Sierra—propelled by her experience as a parent

As the Communications and Fundraising Manager, I am often assigned the task of interviewing staff about their work. Its always interesting to hear people’s stories, to find out why someone chose to work at the Learning Disabilities Society (LDS). Today, I’m doing something a little different; I’m sharing what led me to LDS.

am the parent of a non-binary* child with a learning difference. While my child Riley** is now a successful adult, I still remember clearly what their elementary school years were like. Riley was a bright kid, but very disorganized. They made what seemed like careless mistakes that resulted in lower grades. Riley was anxious in group discussions and did not like to raise their hand in class. Riley’s teacher for both Grades 3 and 4 assigned a tremendous amount of homework, which became a tearful and exhausting experience for both of us. 

Fortunately, Riley’s Grade 5 Teacher recognized the disorganization as a possible sign of a learning disability. I could not afford a Psychological Education Assessment (PsychEd), which ran about $2,000 at the time. The teacher explained that while the school did finance PsychEds, every school was only given a small number of slots each year, and children with behavioural issues or multiple disabilities were prioritized. Since Riley was a sweet and shy child, they were never disruptive in class, and their teacher said it might take years to work up the waitlist if it even happened at all. 

Thanks to some financial help from the great-grandparents, Riley received a PsychEd that resulted in a specific diagnosis and began twiceweekly sessions with an LDS instructor who specialized in their disability. At that time, I was a low-income graduate student; we lived in city-owned, rent-controlled housing; and I did not have the income to access these critical services. LDS helped me apply for in-house and external bursaries that covered nearly all my child’s expenses. From Grades 5 through 7Riley received LDS individualized educational support. Riley went from being a C- student to being a B+ student. When Riley graduated elementary school, they won the award for the mostimproved student.  

Besides improved grades, my child experienced other outcomes from their LDS instruction. Over the three years that Riley attended sessions at LDS, their confidence, ability to advocate for themself in class, and organizational skills improved dramatically. Riley learned the tools they needed to be able to handle schoolwork and homework on their own. Riley’s grades continued to improve, and by their senior year of high schoolthey became an A/A+ student.  

Riley also came out of their shell. Riley joined the Drama Club and began performing in plays and film productions. Before my eyes, I watched my kid transform from an anxious child afraid to raise their hand in class to a confident teenager willing to get up on a stage! After I graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing and after Riley graduated from high school, we moved to Victoria, BC, where Riley now works and lives on their own.  

I never forgot what LDS did for my child. It was Riley’s remarkable transformation that inspired me to apply for a remote position with LDS when one became available. Riley is proof that LDS changes lives, and I wanted to help change lives too. 

Riley’s school years weren’t easy. I know what it feels like to be a low-income parent of a child with a learning difference. The difficult situation isn’t necessarily permanent, but when your kids need help, they need help nowregardless of whether you’re finishing a degree, or going through a rough patch, or—like many today—recently unemployed due to no fault of your own. 

Now, LDS offers even more programs to help low-income familiessuch as Family Coaching and UBC PsychEd Referrals. LDS has Pro-D, Spring Break, and Summer Break Camps that give working parents a safe and specialized place for their children when school is out. LDS has expanded their programs for teens to include RISE after School and PEERS Social Skills. 

If you think kids with learning differences deserve equitable, affordable access to learning support, no matter what their family’s financial situation is, please consider donating to RISE to the Challenge and help us raise $100K for 100 Kids who need our help now. 

————— 

*a non-binary person does not identify asor solely asa man or a woman and often uses they/them/their pronouns.  

**name changed to protect their privacy. 

.

Will You RISE to the Challenge with Us?

Will You RISE to the Challenge with Us?

At LDS, we are driven by our mission to empower all children and youth with learning differences to recognize their unique strengths and develop the tools to achieve lifelong confidence and success. We want our students to feel like they can move mountains! 

This is an unprecedented time. We are taking unprecedented measures to make sure that our community’s vulnerable learners have continuous help and access to all the learning supports they need to build confidence and succeed in school and throughout life. These supports are critical for each individual child, for their families, and for the health, safety, and sustainability of our communities.  

We cannot afford to have these kids fall through the cracks. 

Now is the time to make sure they know they’re superheroes! Our approach to empowering our students is special because we work to deliver individualized services to each child based on their needs andas a charitywe do that for every student we work with, regardless of the family’s financial situation. 

Here is what our parents have to say: 

“LDS and the bursary that they offer really levels the playing field. The cost of a service should never be something that prevents you from getting your child support.” 

“LDS is an organization that will be supporting you in every step of your child’s struggle. LDS will be there to give a hand to youIt could give you the support. It’s not education, it’s not just money; it is all the support. LDS has helped so much.” 

“Even though I am working, it’s not sufficient enough for me to be able to access the services. LDS opened up their arms and they said to me, ‘Don’t worry about it. LDS has in-house financial support.’” 

I feel so grateful. I feel thanks for the financial program, because if I had to pay for it by myself, I don’t think I could do it for my two sons.” 

Will you RISE to the Challenge with us?

Donate now at RISE to the Challenge and help LDS support its most vulnerable learners. 

 

Walk a Mile in My Shoes Workshop on November 16th

Walk a Mile in My Shoes Workshop on November 16th

Do you know someone with a learning difference? Would you like to understand how they experience the world? 

We will be holding a free online Walk a Mile in My Shoes (WAMMS) workshop on Monday, November 16th, from 6 pm  7 pm. 

WAMMS workshops use simulations and exercises to raise awareness about learning differences. Facilitators and participants explore learning disabilities such as dysgraphia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, ADHD, visual perception, and others. This workshop is designed to give participants an understanding of the factors that influence a child’s ability to learn, and how we can support students with learning difficulties, as parents, teachers, educational support staff, and/or community members. Participants will gain knowledge about current thinking in the field of learning disabilities, and a practical understanding of how they may affect life at home and at school. 

Register your interest and join us on Monday, November 16, at 6 pm. 

UBC and LDS collaboration brings affordable, accessible psychoeducational assessments to students

UBC and LDS collaboration brings affordable, accessible psychoeducational assessments to students

LDS is thrilled to announce to our families that we are now able to offer referrals for psychoeducational and neuropsychological evaluations to some of our families!

 

We are collaborating with the University of British Columbia’s Psychological Services and Counselling Training Centre (PSCTC). The PSCTC is a university-based setting for clinical training and research within the UBC’s Faculty of Education. The PSCTC supports graduate training in psychoeducational assessment and intervention, and in counselling, maintains an up-to-date Test Library of psychoeducational assessment and intervention and mental health and social development resources, provides service and leadership in the profession and community, and facilitates research in education.

 

This collaboration with UBC will be a game changer for many of our families, who will now have access to an affordable assessment over a time span that is potentially years faster than currently available via other means. Having this additional evidence and deeper understanding about their child’s learning strengths and stretches will help our families be better advocates for their children and ensure they get learning supports that are tailored to their child’s needs.

 

These evaluations will be offered by PSCTC at a rate that is roughly half of what is available via private practitioners. And thanks to the generous support of our donors and sponsors, qualifying LDS families will be eligible for partial to full bursary support to subsidize the cost of the assessment so that we can make it accessible and affordable to all. 

 

While LDS is facilitating these referrals and will be providing space at our Learning Centre to conduct portions of the assessment that need to be done in person, families will have a direct relationship with UBC PSCTC, will follow their procedures and policies, and will have full ownership of all reports and data generated through the evaluation process.

 

Everyone at LDS would like to thank the professors, staff and students at UBC’s PSCTC for offering this invaluable opportunity to our families. We cannot wait to help more families access the learning supports they need and deserve! 

 

How do referrals work? 

LDS families will be referred to the PSCTC; a professor will arrange an initial intake screening call to see if and what degree of evaluation might be most appropriate for each child. If you are interested and have not yet been contacted by us, please reach out to info@ldsociety.ca to discuss this opportunity.

 

More about psycho-educational and neuro-psychological assessments at PSCTC (from https://psctc.educ.ubc.ca/facilities-services/ )
The PSCTC Assessment Clinics offer psycho-educational assessments and/or consultation for children and youth who have questions about their cognitive, academic, social-emotional, or behavioural strengths and weaknesses in order to provide diagnoses and/or to develop strategies to meet their individual learning needs. Clinicians are interns, senior graduate students, current doctoral students, or recent graduates from the UBC school psychology training program. Interns commonly fulfill this rotation during the summer months. Overall coordination of work in the Clinics is provided by the Professional Practice Leader, working with other doctoral trained, registered psychologists or Certified School Psychologists.

 

The PSCTC also has a neuropsychological assessment clinic where the emphasis is on neuropsychological evaluation of children and youth to help identify areas of strength and weakness to help with their medical treatment, educational planning, and treatment (such as therapy/counselling or behavioral management). The evaluation will be appropriate for children and youth who are experiencing difficulties with learning, attention, behaviour, or social functioning, difficulty with emotional control, medical or developmental problems that affect the brain, or brain injuries from accidents, medical treatment, or other experiences. The assessment reports will also provide support for children and youth who may have a history of cancer, concussion or traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, ADHD, learning disabilities, Tourette’s Syndrome, and other medical conditions. This assessment clinic will also provide supervised training opportunities for School and Applied Child Psychology doctoral students and is a primary training rotation for doctoral interns in the BC School and Applied Psychology Internship Program. 

Register now for our RISE Spring Break Camps! More Info!