One on one support for students comprises the mainstay of services provided at the Centre for Literacy. Interventions (or teaching methods) employed by the Centre in supporting students are well-researched and effective. Programs are multi-sensory to reinforce learning and help students be successful.
The first stage of the process of obtaining one on one support at the Centre is the intake interview, normally conducted by phone. Interviews are scheduled at opportune times for a parent/caregiver. Intake interviews provide an opportunity for parents/caregivers to ask questions. Centre staff also seek information about the student to gain insight into their strengths and challenges. Most interviews are scheduled for one hour to afford parents ample time to ask questions; however, interviews may not consume the full hour. Parents may want to prepare for this interview by assembling any reports prepared about their child including psychoeducational reports, speech language repots, etc. However, parents should not worry if they do not have or are unable to find these reports.
If a parent wishes to proceed with obtaining one on one support at the Centre, the next step is scheduling. Parents are asked to identify recurring times that they would be available to bring their child to the Centre. Family flexibility in considering a range of times will expedite scheduling. Scheduling options are reviewed which consider a family's availability, the student's needs and the availability of teachers with appropriate expertise. Centre staff attempt to engineer the best possible fit between teacher and student.
Each student at the Centre is unique. While they may share attributes with other students who struggle with reading, writing, comprehension or mathematics, a student's interests, talents, experiences, motivation, mental health and previous learning experiences to name a few, will impact their profile as a learner. It is not uncommon for a student who struggles with some aspects of reading to have advanced skills in another. Similarly, some students who struggle with one aspect of math may actually have strong skills in another. It is critical at the early stages of support to assemble a profile of a student as a learner. This profile is critical for developing an intervention plan. A learner profile is created by reviewing previous assessments and via information obtained during the intake interview. If a student is referred to the Centre without any previous assessments or those assessments are aged, an initial baseline review will be conducted to gain an understanding about a student's reading or mathematics skills, depending upon the reason for the referral. This assessment will be repeated at periodic intervals during the time a student attends the Centre for Literacy. A standard fee of $325 will be applied for an initial reading or mathematics assessment, and $375 for a writing assessment. The Centre uses the Feifer Assessment of Reading (FAR), Feifer Assessment of Mathematics (FAM), and the Feifer Assessment of Writing (FAW) for initial and ongoing assessments in reading or mathematics. The initial fee includes a debriefing with parents/caregivers. A detailed Tabular Summary of Results is also produced which can be shared with teachers or school administrations. The FAR, FAM, and FAW are re-administered as part of a process of regular progress monitoring. The assessments are conducted during a student's regular appointments at no additional charge. The Centre also asks each parent/caregiver to complete the Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale - Children and Adolescents, to gain an understanding about a student's executive function and attentional skills. At the first session, the teacher will conduct an interview geared towards uncovering a student's interests and talents. To the extent possible, these interests are considered when developing lesson plans for a student. This initial "get to know you interview" informs part of a learner profile. If parents have previous assessments, they are encouraged to share them with the Centre for the purposes of adding information to a student's learning profile.
Remediation support begins at the initial session. Part of the initial session will be dedicated towards a "get to know you" interview. In an age appropriate way, students will also be advised about how our brains process reading and mathematics. Lessons are normally one hour in length. In select circumstances, generally with more mature students who have demonstrated an ability to attend for a more extended period of time, lessons may be 90 minutes in length. Lessons may be shorter for students with complex needs, ending after 30 minutes or 45 minutes. Ideally, attempts are made to build appointments up to one hour in length. However, that may not be possible for some students. Parents/caregivers should note that the nature of one on one sessions may be tiring for some students. Centre teachers are well aware of issues around attention and executive function; while a one hour lesson will typically not include a break, several different strategies or approaches are employed during a lesson which act to break up the period into bite sized pieces that are appealing to students who have difficulty sustaining attention. The Centre uses evidence based approaches. Reading support/remediation systematically address the five major elements of literacy outlined by the National Reading Panel. Specific reading programs may include but are not limited to LiPS (Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing System), the Wilson Reading System and REWARDS. Supports to enhance comprehension include the meta-cognitive strategies outlined in the National Reading Panel report which are incorporated in programs like Visualizing and Verbalizing. A systematic and structured approach is utilized for supporting writing which is based on practice strategies published in the peer-review literature. Intervention for mathematics disabilities utilizes the Principles for Effective Intervention for Students with Mathematics Disabilities published by L. Fuchs et al in 2008. Specific programs utilized include the Canadian developed JUMP math.
Progress monitoring is ongoing, and is both formal and informal. Teachers note outcomes directly on the lesson plan generated for each session. On a periodic basis, reading or mathematics assessment will be readministered to assess progress. These repeated assessments provide vital information for planning, identifying areas of growth and areas where progress is slower than expected growth. Progress monitoring assessments, generally using the FAR or FAM, are frequently administered when a student's primary teacher is scheduled to be away. The assessments are conducted by trained staff at the Centre. A Tabular Summary of Results is prepared and shared with parents.
The primary focus of the Centre is to support students to overcome difficulties in reading, writing or mathematics. Many of the students who attend the Centre may have conditions which frequently co-exist with learning disorders/disabilities including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, significant deficits in Executive Function, Apraxia, Tourette's Syndrome, Anxiety Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Intellectual Disabilities and various other neurodevelopmental issues. We are happy to consider accepting students will multiple needs. We value working with parents/caregivers to learn more about experts. At minimum, the are experts about their children. While we are experts in learning disabilities/disorders, we do not assert that we are expert in the complex array of issues that may accompany a child's challenges in learning to read, write, or do math. However, we are committed to working with families to provide support and build the most inclusive environment possible. Sometimes this might mean that support may be delayed until we can find the best teacher to address the needs of a child with complex needs.
Parents/caregivers often ask about how long it will take for a child to overcome their learning difficulties. The duration of support at the Centre varies by student and is based on a variety of factors. Learning disorders/disabilities are lifelong. While many students effectively overcome many different aspects of a learning disorder/disability, evolving curricular demands may mean that they will continue to need periodic support throughout their academic careers. The duration of initial support will be impacted by factors including but not limited to the extent of a student's challenges with reading, writing or mathematics, co-existing conditions like ADHD or anxiety disorders, or other mental health issues, their cognitive profile (Full Scale Intelligence Score), and more. Students with consistent attendance, whether once weekly during the school term, or during a more intense program scheduled during the summer, tend to have better outcome compared to students with irregular attendance. It is common for students to zig-zag in and out of the Centre; this practice is encouraged. Students may initially come to the Centre for support to address significant reading, writing, comprehension or math difficulties. When they gain confidence in their abilities in these areas, they withdraw with the knowledge that if they run into difficulties, they are welcome to return. Many students who have overcome significant learning challenges in reading return to the Centre when their school work becomes more complex and they need strategies to improve reading comprehension and writing. This pattern may continue for a student's entire academic career. Some students with significant learning disabilities/disorders receive continuous support during entire school year for multiple years; the Centre effectively providing critical intervention in areas not typically addressed within the school system. The Centre complements what is provided by the school system for students at risk.