Road Bumps, Not Road Blocks

Written by Ryan Charles Parker

Photo: Janet de LaForest of Learning Disabilities Association of Red Deer

Perhaps you have a child who is very bright. She can carry on conversations. She can solve practical problems with great efficiency. She has an impeccable memory and is able to recall facts that would have escaped from the memory of most children. By any means or measure, she should be a great student.

Yet, when she gives her parents her report cards, her marks are far below what you would predict for a child with her extraordinary intelligence. The situation is perplexing.

The answer to the riddle may be that she has a learning disability. That is where the Learning Disabilities Association of Red Deer can help.

“People think that it’s a cognitive disability,” explains Janet de LaForest, president of the Association. “If you look at these people, they’re very intelligent.”

Sometimes these students act out in an attempt to be looked at with greater respect. “Their sense of self-worth goes down and they become a behaviour problem.”

What you must come to understand, as was mentioned earlier, these children are often very intelligent. It is a matter of teaching and helping them in ways that regular school cannot provide.

“They learn differently, says de Laforest. “So they need extra support.”

Some of the common learning disabilities that the Association help with include dyslexia--a reading and writing disorder, dyscalculia--a condition that affects the ability to negotiate math, and dysgraphia--difficulty writing coherently, and other, less common disorders.

And the Association provides that support by tutoring these students using methods that may not be available at the schools that they are attending, teaching them social skills that they would otherwise have trouble picking up as easily as can be for people without learning difficulties, advocating on their behalf because sometimes they have trouble doing it on their own and providing general support for students who are hard-pressed and in a difficult position.

Tackling problems this difficult cannot be done without much help, and the Association is gifted with about 30 volunteers that are integral for the Association to provide the services that they do.

As mentioned earlier, the Association provides tutoring programs. This service would be impossible without the generous help of volunteers, people who take time out of their lives, free of charge, to take these children from merely treading water to sailing down the river in a sturdy raft. There is much goodness in these tutors, and they use their skill to provide for these students a key to the lock of learning disabilities.

But all of this activity is not possible without at least some money to keep the Association afloat. This is another area in which volunteers are integral. “They contribute through doing Bingos for us, fundraisers, casinos, and some administrative work.”

It boils down to this: the Learning Disabilities Association of Red Deer does great work in our community. They are able to do this work because of volunteers. They beautifully help those that, without help, would be unable to help themselves. But as a final word, it should be said that people that struggle with the conditions mentioned earlier are not somehow less intelligent or worthwhile. I’ll go back to a quote that I mentioned from de LaForest: “they learn differently.”

To help and support the Learning Disabilities Association of Red Deer, please visit their website:

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