Canada’s Education and Mental Health Systems – Opinion

LEARNING DISABILITIES – LET’S GIVE OUR KIDS A CHANCE.

Our daughter lived with learning disabilities and innate, but hidden neural deficits, which affected her social interaction and led to isolation and loneliness.   She had above average intelligence, extraordinary talent as a writer, a poet, an artist and a public speaker. Thirty years ago (1983) when she was in need of help in the education field,  there was no home schooling system (unless either of the parents was a qualified teacher) or private learning disability schools,  let alone public learning disability schools, and certainly no policy for zero-bullying tolerance

Had she been of elementary school age today, we have a fully accredited public school home schooling system, a policy for zero-bullying (which will never prevent bullying but which is on the right track) and there are private learning disability schools.  Had she been born today, many of her traumas (not all) may have lessened and she may have grown into adulthood happy and healthy.

The definition of a learning disability is that a person scores average to high on some subjects but extremely low on others.  A person who scores low on all subjects does not have a learning disability – they may have a developmental disability.  When our daughter was re-integrated to the mainstream class as was school policy then, she was labeled by other students as “a retard”.  Seen as “different”, she experienced intense bullying.

Has Canada’s education system with regard to learning disabilities evolved over the last thirty years?   Many well-intentioned but misguided parents of learning disabled children continue to advocate in the interests of equality – to maintain their children in mainstream school classes – even though, in practice, what happens is that the discrimination about which they are concerned comes, not from society, but from the peers in that class who see the disabled student as “different”.  Children will feel empathy for a physically disabled child with regular thinking skills. When “difference” is not always apparent on the outside, as with learning disabilities,  it can still be perceived and is confusing to the child’s peers.  Teaching Aids and Special Education Teachers may provide personal tuition, but the student is singled out as “different”.

Bullying is cruel and cannot be condoned. However, how we make friends is part of the natural order of social behavior (as Darwin put it “survival of the fittest”)  and  applies to both children and adults.  We pick those who fit into our pattern, those who identify with our values and interests. We tend to be nice to those who do not but we do not include them in our social circle.  It has been seen over and over again that children thrive best, as we all do, when we are with others with whom we have a commonality, such as similar challenges, and with whom we do not feel judged – we feel safe. We all feel more comfortable when we perceive ourselves as being on an equal basis to others.

In every class, there are at least two children who have learning disabilities. Every teacher will tell you that.  We are advocating for dedicated Provincial Learning Disability Public Schools.  We believe one Provincial Learning Disability Public School can serve multiple municipalities. The Greater Victoria area, for example, could include Esquimalt and Langford.  There is an independent learning disability school in Victoria and the educational system provides a subsidy for parents who decide to opt out of the public school system.  However, for many parents, the subsidy still does not make private school fees achievable.  Our Canada Education Policy mandates that every child should have the education that best serves their needs.  Are we doing that?  Let’s make it possible for the children with learning disabilities to have schooling dedicated to their needs which will engage their self-esteem so they leave school with heads held high, fulfilled and looking to productive lives.  It might cost more in the initial stages but the potential saving is priceless. 50% of prison inmates have learning disabilities.

An interview Judy had with Frank Stanford of CFAX Radio (A.M) September 5th, 2014:-

Let us know if this is of interest to you.

THE MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM – MORE THERAPY, LESS MEDICATION, PLEASE

We believe that we are not born with mental illness.  What we are born with is a genetic and/or hormonal disposition to perceive the “cup” as half-full or half-empty. Trauma is the root cause of mental illness and,  if we are unlucky enough to have a “cup half-empty” temperament, we are more likely to be predisposed to negativity with the trauma we experience having even more impact.

In childhood and adolescence,  the melt-down of Elizabeth’s self-esteem due to the consistent challenges she faced on a daily basis was judged to be mental illness.  The Education System said “they wanted no part of it”.  “Give it to the Mental Health System”, they said.  The Mental Health System thought medications were the answer. They were wrong.  With exceptions, we are skeptical about the use of psychiatric medications, especially when we have psychiatrists telling us they have not got the foggiest idea how they work.

We believe that family counseling at an early stage and/or immediately after the first indication of trauma would lessen the need for psychotropic medication.  We are advocating for in-home counseling (counseling circles) to include professionals, relatives, friends, indeed anybody that is a role model for the patient, and wants to help – more therapy – less medication!

We are advocating for clinical therapists and psychologists to be accessible through the health service via the family doctor as is the case with physical illness when the doctor makes referrals to specialists.

We are advocating for Professional Mental Health Peer Support Workers to be provided on in-patient units for psychiatric patients and on discharge from psychiatric hospitals to the home. Such Peer Support Workers would support the patient’s access to socialization and perspectives on living in society. Elizabeth was part of the first trial Mental Health Peer Support and received postulately her official Certificate of qualification.

Let us know if this is of interest to you.

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