Why are you passionate about helping students with learning differences?
As a student with learning differences who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, helping students with learning differences is a particular passion. The belittling, shaming, and social isolation of "othered" populations witnessed throughout my education made my "mission" clear. Knowing that I can't prevent those situations didn't mean I shouldn't spend my life's work educating, supporting, and building the evidence-based care for our students who are "othered" to support them in communicating optimally with their world around them, providing as many evidence-based models of intervention we can to best address our clients/students/patients needs.
What would you say to someone who is very anxious about learning problems in school?
First and foremost, it is best to build rapport and relationships on positive footing. Thus, focusing on the student/client/patient's strengths and areas they enjoy, particularly the ones they feel are their own strengths (not someone else's perceptions of their strengths), is a great way to engage and build a relationship. Then, delving into their perceptions of challenges versus others' perceptions of challenges and how we could use the student's strengths to bridge those gaps would be one way I might address the student's anxieties. Our strengths point us in directions for us to address challenges in individual ways. It is these particular ways that set each of us apart from everyone else. Otherwise, we'd all do everything the same way and life would be quite boring! (and, why standardized education isn't for everyone) Depending upon the relationship and the demonstration of challenges, I may bring in experiences with how ADHD and the autism spectrum have impacted some people's ability to do school work and the tools that have been used successfully to address them.
What advice would you give to a family who is on the fence about signing up for a learning assessment (or counseling/therapy)?
It's been my experience through life that the situations most fraught with worry and stress were those that were overwhelmed with the unknown. When we "know" or find out that a loved one is affected by something with a specific definition and subsequent course of action, we feel empowered with a path or several paths from which to choose in order to meet the specific needs of that diagnosis (be it a disorder, delay, or general challenge). It's my philosophy to support families by encouraging them to move ahead in positive directions to discern and define those areas of concern for their loved ones. I often cite my own personal experiences.