By Sarah Pike
People always think the smartest person in the room is always the one who can hold a conversation with anyone because they have a louder voice, are headstrong, and have a way with words and people.
Yet, it's sometimes the quiet one standing there listening to what everyone has to say, because before voicing an opinion. They want to make sure their words are thought provoking and are connected.
That would be me.
Born and raised in the heart of Toronto, my ambitions to discover and learn go further than the skyscrapers, fancy meeting halls and classrooms that able to contain my dreams.
You see, I am 1 of the 3,775,900 Canadians aged 15 years and older (who) reported some type of disability with Statistics Canada.
Or in other words, it is estimated that around 5% of all school-age children have auditory processing disorder which is what I have – APD or CAPD or central auditory processing disorder.
Growing up in a big city, it may be hard to imagine that it was hard to find others like myself, let alone the professional help I needed.
I was one of your typically quiet kids who never said a word.
The kind you felt bad for because they were nice but would still be bullied every day, never free from the feeling of wishing you could be part of the walls or that you were somewhere else.
Thankfully, I was saved when I reached Grade 9.
I was accepted to go to both the Sagonaska and Trillium Demonstration schools. I was given two full years of professional teaching for my disability.
The years I was granted inspired and changed me into the woman I am today.
For the first time, I felt like I belonged somewhere outside my own family or home.
I had educators from all different professions and students I now call family, who understood my challenges and struggles.
I was able to build myself up into a stronger, better me because I was given the gifts of time, patience and love.
I was finally able to decode words, increase my reading ability, write paragraphs (let alone full sentences), and made a huge increase in rote memory and improved concentration.
I was literally changing into a whole other person within months!
Now, my writing makes sense without having an adult approve and edit what I wrote. I could show off what I learned, by tutoring others struggling to comprehend, process and figure out a way to remember what was just taught or had been said.
I could now stand up in front of my classmates, teachers, coworkers, friends and family and tell them my thoughts, opinions and even make jokes!
Trillium specifically changed my life. This school had a different feel to any another school I had ever been to, but it’s really the community that saves these lives.
They are the ones who taught me that it’s okay to be yourself, no matter your strengths or weaknesses, whether you’re an extrovert or introvert.
Whether you’re more logical or creative, we are all smart and interesting in our own way and have strengths, different kinds of smarts, new methods and initiative ideas that work for us.
It’s all about learning who you are and finding the right kind of help to teach you so that you can be successful.
In the words of Howard Gardner, “Anything that is worth teaching can be presented in many different ways. These multiple ways can make use of our multiple intelligence.”
I was lucky enough to have this chance of having a true future, with out it, I have no idea where I’d be right now.
What these opportunities created for me, was that I could stop dreaming and start living.
I have the right tools and equipment to get me there.
I am pleased to say that I now have my high school diploma, High Honours diploma in Early Childhood Education, and received the Irene Violet Centre of Students with Disabilities Scholarship for demonstrating the importance of how I used my challenges to inspire others through mentoring, advocating and tutoring.
I also became an Ambassador for Early Childhood Education for Ghana in 2013 by educating about different teaching methods and about different disabilities.
I’m now working towards getting my Bachelors degree in Child Development in the pursuit of going further to becoming a professor and an activist to help spread awareness about severe learning disabilities.
Currently, I am the Student Ambassador for the Provincial Demonstrations schools fighting to keep these wonderful schools open for future students with severe learning disabilities.
If it wasn’t for the Provincial Demonstration schools, I would not have had the knowledge, tools and equipment to pass through the regular core school system.
Without the Provincial Demonstration schools, I would not be where I am today.
No matter what disability you have we all deserve the right to a bright future and the right to learn.
A brief summary of what’s happening in Ontario right now:
In early March 2016, the Ontario Ministry of Education announced they decided to halt new applications to attend Centre Jules- Legar in Ottawa, the Trillum in Milton, Amethyst in London, and Sagonaska in Belleville for students with learning disabilities, and the Robarts School for the Deaf in London.
Education Minister Liz Sandals refused to rule out the possibility of closing the schools in the future, blaming “low enrolments and limited quality.”
However, alumni and parents of Deaf students and students with learning disabilities disagree with her statement. They express that part of the blame for low enrolments falls with the government for a lack of promotion.
Many parents, alumni, and students have been expressing their concerns via social media and through their local MPPs. They know students attending these Deaf schools and schools for those with learning disabilities have lives that have benefitted drastically better than if they had attended and become isolated in mainstream schools, where students would not access to what they need – teachers fluent in ASL and bilingual learning materials.
After long months of pressure from parents, families and alumni, Minister of Education Liz Sandals announced that all Deaf schools and school for students with learning disabilities will remain open for now – just one day before a large protest and rally was scheduled at Queen’s Park.
They have not said, however, what will happen to the schools after the 2016/17 year. This is still very worrisome for parents and families.
The large protest and rally was scheduled on Thursday April 14 2016 where NDP Education Critic MPP Lisa Gretzky made her motion to save provincial and demonstration schools long-term, however most of the Liberal government voted against her motion.
That does not stop the Deaf community and many parents who are fighting to keep their school open in the future.
It is not over yet…
** There are four deaf schools in Ontario; Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville, Ernest C. Drury School for the Deaf in Milton, Robarts School for the Deaf in London, and Centre Jules-Legar in Ottawa.**
**There are four schools for students with learning disabilities; Sagonaska Demonstration School in Belleville, Trillium Demonstration School in Milton, Amethyst Demonstration School in London, and Centre Jules-Legar in Ottawa.
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