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 your child, or a child you know, might need help with a learning difference, please reach out to us! Or, 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 LDS.

Thank you!



Sierra Gemma (she/her) is the parent of an adult child with a learning disability and a former LDS parent. Sierra brings ten years of experience writing for digital communications, grants, and fundraising and 15 years of volunteer and paid work with nonprofit organizations. She has a BA in History and Sociology and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. As the Communications and Fundraising Manager, Sierra’s priority is to ensure that LDS effectively spreads awareness of learning disabilities and engages the community to participate in removing the intersectional socioeconomic barriers to success for children with learning differences.


*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. 


10 Ways to Help Your Kids With Their Homework

10 Ways to Help Your Kids With Their Homework

All parents home school. And, in fact, even if parents send their children off to school to learn, they are almost singlehandedly the only factor that matters in their kids’ educational success.

Paul E. Barton of the Educational Testing Service (which administers the GRE among other standardized tests) wrote a piece called “America’s Smallest School: The Family.”

He has estimated that about 90 percent of the difference in schools’ proficiencies can be explained by five factors: the number of days students are absent from school, the number of hours students spend watching television, the number of pages read for homework, the quantity and quality of reading material in the students’ homes, and the presence of two parents in the home. So the best schools are really those where there are parents helping with homework. So here are 10 ways to help your kids with their homework.

1. Set the time

Structure is always important. Designate a specific time frame for homework to be completed. Creating a regular routine will increase productivity.

2. Get involved

It is important to be active in your kid’s education. Most schools offer online services to check on grades, homework assignments, and overall progress. Keep yourself up to date on all of these things.

3. Help create a homework space

Provide a quiet and well-lit location. Make sure there is a spacious work area and all necessary items to complete the assignments. Preparation is half the battle.

4. Limit distractions

Our homes are filled with distractions. Televisions, cell phones, and video games just to name a few. The use of these items should not be allowed during homework time. The mind should be focused on the task at hand.

5. Organize

Multiple subjects and classes can create confusion. Provide a planner and instruct your child how to organize and prioritize assignments. Create a solid game plan.

6. Be a cheerleader

Always show support and give encouragement. Reward strong effort as well as results. We want our children to always give their best.

7. Provide guidance

We all get stumped sometimes. Make sure helpful resources are available when needed. These might include yourself, school-provided telephone services, or school-approved online assistance. A child should always be able to ask a question and get an answer.

8. Work first

Just like their parents, children have busy lives these days. Homework should always come before sports and social activities. Make sure education is a number one priority.

9. Notes

Make sure your child develops an excellent note-taking system. Experts believe an outline form of note-taking is the most efficient method. However, all children are different, so just make sure they have a system that works for them. Handwritten notes, as opposed to typing, tend to lead to better memory of the information.

10. Study habits

Help instill strong study habits and work ethic in your children.[ctt template=”9″ link=”UvP2L” via=”no” ]Help instill strong study habits and work ethic in your children.[/ctt] Tests and projects require plenty of planning. Provide tips and techniques that will bring the top-notch results that are desired.


Read the original article on All Pro Dad 


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