For many families, there are significant barriers to accessing programs for children with learning differences. A Vancouver-based advocacy group is putting the rubber on the road – with a vibrant customized bus – in hopes of mending that gap.
Learning Disability Society has launched a new mobile education centre, under a program called LDS Access, driving directly to schools and even student’s homes to host one-on-one learning sessions.
“We pride ourselves on thinking outside the box and really figuring out how we can get to the families and communities that need us,” director of education Jennifer Fane told Black Press Media. “What we know from working with our community partners is that geography and cost is a barrier for most families in accessing instructional services for their child with a learning difference.”
Thanks to $250,000 in donations, the society has purchased a Green Power electric minibus and outfitted it with customized learning stations, featuring graphic design by Vancouver artist Carson Ting which tells the story of how education can empower children with learning differences.
Aboard the bus, students can find a colourful interior filled with learning supplies and a social robot named QT – the society is working on a study with the University of Waterloo to see how robots can help students in meeting learning goals.
“QT is able to take students through a goal setting exercise, self-regulation activities and can play a game as a reward if students are able to stay on task and complete their learning goal for the day,” Fane said. “Our students have found QT extremely engaging and highly motivating.”
Finding ways to keep youth engaged is core to the society’s work, as many of their students come to do “school after school” during a 50-minute session.
Society experts can work with three students at once on the bus. The instructors use the “RISE” method, which stands for research-informed individualized student education methodology.
Programs are open to children with or without diagnosed or suspected learning disabilities, because the process of diagnosing a learning disability can be arduous.
The LDS Access Bus is currently serving families in the Greater Vancouver Area. The program is available on a sliding fee scale for lower-income families. The society is on track to serve over 400 students this year across its network of learning centres, partner schools, online programs and the new LDS Access program.
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