Heather Reimer: A Composite Journey

Our October 2011 parent support meeting brought in a wonderful resource person: Heather Reimer. Heather has an M.Ed. and worked with exceptional children for nine years. She is also the mother of two teenage boys.

Heather has done a lot of advocacy work that has really benefited our local and provincial communities. She advised us that parents have to do a lot of advocacy on behalf of their children. In her experience, it is critical to find a team of people and then work closely with them.

The notes below are from one of the fascinated listeners.

Tips on Being an Executive Parent

When your child has ADHD, you need to become the executive parent. Your child will need prompts to organize his or her life, school, and work environments.

Post a visual schedule that covers one week in the life of your family. It can be photos, pictures, or words. It needs to be centrally located, such as on the refrigerator, and should be large enough that it does not appear to be too busy.

Keep good records: notes from doctor appointments, specialist reports, notes from teachers, etc. These are very important in your role as advocate.

With one of her sons, Heather found that the transition from home to school was hard: tantrums and a lot of separation anxiety.

Notes About Schooling

Psychological educational assessment is being done earlier; more screening is being done, as early as kindergarten.

Grade 5 is often where the gaps start to really become noticeable.

It’s hard to say this, but: Let your child fail. Otherwise they don’t get the support they need.

Don’t forget to tell teachers what your child’s strengths are as well as weaknesses.

Students need to self-advocate as they move through the system, especially in senior high school. Teachers expect more independence as students move along

Alberta Education is pushing hard for inclusion. The buzz phrase is “Universal Design for Learning.” As a result, “Strategies” program sites may be phased out over time as there is a renewed focus on integration.

IPP: Individualized Program Planning): the document that you and the learning team come up with when looking at your child’s needs and how best to support his or her learning. A complete listing of the Individualized Program Planning guide is found on the Alberta Education website. The appendices (12-A, 12-B, and 12-C) were particularly useful for one parent of a junior high school child.

Executive Services at Edmonton Public School Board is a resource for parents. The Edmonton Catholic School District also has consultants.

There are various options for schooling: virtual (online) school, home schooling, private schools, inclusion vs specialized sites. Specialized site in Edmonton is the Academy at King Edward. The Edmonton Academy and Foothills Academy in Calgary are private schools that provide special programming. However, they may not take students with behavioral issues.

The TeachADHD website, out of Ontario, is aimed at teachers. Not about dealing with behavior, but rather focuses on ADHD as a neurological-developmental disorder.

Testing Comments

A health unit nurse, pediatrician, or family doctor can be resources when you have concerns re developmental milestones or social skills.

A learning disorder doesn’t qualify for funding or aid. In these cases, the child’s test score doesn’t fall below the 10th percentile, which is the requirement to be termed a learning disability.

The Glenrose in Edmonton does tertiary assessments; full team assessments. This program can be hard to access and it can take a long time before your child makes it to the top of the list.

Be aware that overlapping behaviors/comorbidity happens a lot. For instance, between Autism Spectrum Disorder, SPD, Nonverbal Learning Disorder, learning disabilities, ADHD, ADD.

Financial Matters

Family Supports for Children with Disabilities (FSCD) offers some funding when families are faced with dealing with severe disabilities. This is accessed through Social Services; you can do a self-referral. .

The government also offers income tax write-offs for families in these kinds of circumstances.

Interesting Notes

If your child has trouble reading black on white, check out the Irlen Centre in Alberta. Heather found that a coloured filter, such as purple or blue, made a difference. There is a test you can download from their website.

Heather highly recommended viewing SPD Canada’s website, as it has great resources and links.

Environment Matters

Environmental Medicine is a new specialty. Stephen Genuis here in Edmonton operates in this field (780-450-3504). Health providers in this field try to find the root cause of the health problem. For instance, what kinds of environment have you been in? What do you eat? Do some foods use dyes? How is your air quality? What personal care products do you use?

Slow Death by Rubber Duck is a good book in this field, and it is in Edmonton Public Library. It speaks about the toxins in our environments, and the resulting body burden we carry.

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