Solutions for Learning Conference: Enhancing Minds

Presentation Descriptions

Keynote Address

9:00 – 10:30 am

Building Resilience in Students with Learning Disabilities

Half of the challenge with finding success with any disability is managing self-esteem.  If one can find the tools to increase and keep their self-esteem intact, resiliency and creating success is an option. DJ Cunningham, who is the owner of LEARNstyle Ltd., Ontario’s largest student services software and training company, lives with both ADHD and a Learning Disability. DJ will speak to his experiences in creating a holistic tool kit of esteem creating strategies that build resilience; including everything from fitness, to technology, to small victories. These tools can benefit students with Learning Disabilities but can also be used with students of all abilities.

DJ Cunningham

DJ Cunningham

Keynote Speaker

DJ Cunningham is co-founder and CEO of LEARNstyle Limited, a multi-million dollar technology training and app development company based in Toronto. LEARNstyle has taken the education market by storm, a true disruptor in this space.  Since launched, it has become the largest provider of education technology training and student service software in the province. Both the company and DJ have received numerous awards and recognitions for the work they do to support learning in education and in business. DJ was featured in a TedX talk as well as being featured on CBC and CTV news. To get to this point has not been an easy journey for DJ, and his passion and expertise grows out of a deep personal understanding of both the positive and negative impacts of learning. His learning experiences have been impacted by his learning disability and it was not until he knew ‘how he learned’—that things began to change which have had a positive and lifelong impact on his self-esteem.

Breakout Session A

10:30 am – 11:45 am

A.1: The Importance of Phonological Awareness in Reading Disorders

Presenter: Sherrie Rain, OCT: Sherrie Rain has been teaching students with learning disabilities and reading disorders for over 35 years. She has taught in private education for students with learning disabilities, a First Nation school, a Ministry of Education Demonstration School, as well as public boards. Her passion for cognitive neuroscience in reading informs her practice for remediation.

Presentation Description: Phonological awareness is the foundation to reading and starts before phonics instruction. Sherrie Rain will focus in on the awareness of phonemes, individual sounds in words. This interactive session will model trouble-shooting teaching strategies and problem areas to look out for.

Target Audience: Elementary teachers, educational assistants, professionals
Grade Level Focus: Non-readers of any age, or those who have reached a plateau at Grade 2 but in Grade 4 or higher

A.2: Tech: Not a Direct Path to Success

Presenter: Ryan Hamilton, MEd, OCT: Ryan holds a Masters of Education from York University. He has taught in grade 7 and 8 classes for the past 9 years focusing on making learning possible and meaningful for all students. As a learner with a disability himself, Ryan knows what brings success to students. Success does not come from mastering various technological platforms. Instead, success is the result of blending the instruction in basic skills with the use of technology to bridge the learning gap.

Presentation Description: Typical IEPs for students with LDs list “use of technology” as an instructional and/or assessment strategy. What does this actually look like in a classroom? Is this actually serving the students’ needs? There are many useful tools that technology can provide students to help bridge the learning gap. However, showing a student how to use a specific program or plunking a Chromebook in front of a student is not going to lead to instant academic success. Students require instruction in basic skills – both on and off the computer. Students also require significant opportunities to practice the technological skills needed in order to use the tools at their fingertips 

Target Audience: Elementary & Secondary Teachers, Parents
Grade Level Focus: Intermediate

A.3: Building Executive Function Skills at Home: Applications for Students with ADD and ADHD

Presenter: Dr. Michael Bruder, PhD: Dr. Michael Bruder has over a decade of experience in private and public education. He is the Director of Research for Aristos Education Services Inc. and Operations Director for StudySpot Hamilton and Burlington. He is a published author, has taught at Pennsylvania State and Trent Universities, and is an active researcher in the fields of working memory, cognitive flexibility, and habit formation. Dr. Bruder has a certificate in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy from Wilfred Laurier University.

Presentation Description: Referencing research on Executive Function and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) this presentation discusses the challenges faced by students with executive function deficits and provides academic techniques and habits that can be developed at home to help improve academic performance.

Target Audience: Parents of students with ADD, ADHD, and Executive Function deficits.
Grade Level Focus:Techniques are applicable to all grade levels but examples will focus on the junior/intermediate range.

A.4: Math and LD: Strategies to Improve Student Achievement in the Elementary Math Classroom

Presenter: Jennifer Hearn, Resource Services,Trillium Demonstration School: Jennifer Hearn has supported students with learning differences throughout her teaching career with the Upper Grand District School Board and currently, with the Ministry of Education.

Presentation Description: Students with learning disabilities often struggle in the math classroom. This presentation will deepen participants understanding of LD’s in the math classroom, and explore teaching and assessment strategies that are necessary for some learners, but beneficial for all.

Target Audience: Elementary teachers
Grade Level Focus: Junior/Intermediate

Breakout Session B

12:30 pm – 1:45 pm

B.1: The Dread Inside My Child’s Head: Mental Health and Learning Struggles

Presenter: Susan Schenk, Registered Occupational Therapist: Susan Schenk is an Occupational Therapist, Speaker, Author and an advocate for Learning Disabilities In her book, Beyond Ok: From Invisible to Invincible she offers an insider’s look at learning differences as a child, a parent and a professional. Her business offers strategy parents She is the co-creator of Shift Your Thinking LD which offers parents + professionals insight into the world of learning differently and strategies that can support both them and their children/students. She has also trained Occupational Therapists across North America and spoke to OTs at the OSOT conference

Presentation Description: What are the emotional battles your child deals with when they are faced with learning struggles? Susan will share her personal journey and the connection between dread, shame, anxiety, physical symptoms and learning challenges.She will review steps teachers and parents can take to help their child with their emotional and learning needs.

Target Audience: Elementary teachers, EA’s and Parents
Grade Level Focus: K-12

B.2: Assessing Thinking in Fluid, Manageable and Authentic Ways

Presenter: Usha James, Executive Director, The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2): Usha spent 12 years as a secondary teacher and five years at OISE at the University of Toronto, as an instructor and then Director of the Secondary Program. She has co-authored textbooks, teachers’ resources, course profiles and ministry documents with the aim of providing practical strategies for teachers seeking to refine their practice. Usha has contributed to The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC2) as a resource writer and facilitator and is currently the Executive Director. Usha has worked with principals, superintendents, and teachers of kindergarten to post-secondary students, supporting their efforts to improve the quality of thinking of all learners.

Presentation Description: How do I assess student thinking when traditional assessment and evaluation tasks present barriers for students? What do we do when students are not motivated to complete a culminating activity or don’t persevere through a test or assignment? How might I rethink my assessment practice so that it provides accurate, meaningful and just-in-time information to support my instruction and student learning? And, how do I assess in ways that are manageable without increasing my workload?

Target Audience: All educators and educational leaders
Grade Level Focus: K-12

B.3: ATSelect: Finding the Right Assistive Technology for Your Student

Presenters: Harrison McNaughtan, PhD Student, University of Toronto OISE; Emily Staffiere, MA Student, University of Toronto OISE; Francis Wall, PhD Student, University of Toronto OISE; Damian Page, MA Student, University of Toronto OISE: Harrison is a PhD student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the University of Toronto, OISE. Harrison’s research focuses on two areas: how to best match students to evidence based assistive technologies, and how emerging adults with ASD understand and signal romantic consent. Relevant to the proposed presentation, Harrison has been researching in the area for 4 years under the supervision of Dr Todd Cunningham and has presented on the topic many times. Outside of research Harrison has worked with exceptional students in a variety of capacities including recreation, intervention, and education settings. Emily is a MA student in the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the University of Toronto. Emily’s research will examine how effective typing interventions are on writing quality and written expression for students with learning disabilities in the area of writing. She is interested in how this intervention can be optimized for student success. She’s worked with various recreational and treatment organizations for children with disabilities before starting graduate school. Francis is an PhD student from the University of Toronto School and Clinical Child Psychology program. His research specialization is idea generation in students with writing challenges, with previous research in the neuroscience of attention through electroencephalography. He’s been a volunteer in the TDSB and at Sick Kids hospital for five years before starting graduate school. Damian is a MA student is the School and Clinical Child Psychology program at the University of Toronto. Damian’s research will explore mental health literacy in teachers and how this construct relates to their ability to detect emerging mental health problems in their students. He is interested in improving early detection and intervention for mental health disorders in educational contexts. Prior to stating graduate studies, Damian worked with children and adolescents at the Queen Alexandra Centre for Children’s Health in Victoria British Columbia.

Presentation Description: With the right Assistive Technology (AT), students can work around their learning challenges and independently engage in grade level curriculum. However, students often do not have the right AT tool(s) to lead them to independence. This workshop will teach participants how to use a new free online tool to help parents, teachers, and other education professionals find the right AT tool for a specific student. In addition, this tool considers what the current research indicates about which tools are effective and which are not. Case studies will be provided to allow participants to have hands on experience with the selection tool, ATSelect.

Target Audience: Teachers and Special Education Teachers of all grade levels. Parents and Educational Leaders may also find this workshop useful.
Grade Level Focus: Primary to Senior. Relevant to all learners.

B.4: Does Your Classroom Cultivate Student Resilience?

Presenter: Mary-Lou Maclean, M.S., Executive Director, NILD Canada: Mary-Lou’s passion is to help struggling learners reach their full potential. For over twenty-five years, she has worked in the field of education, teaching high school, college and working as an educational therapist. After training to become an educational therapist through NILD Canada, Mary-Lou continued on to work with many students for over fourteen years in the school setting as well as a private therapist. Her second passion is training educators and parents to work with children that learn differently and she became an instructor with NILD Canada working in their summer graduate program. She is now Executive Director for NILD Canada (National Institute for Learning Development-Canada) She continues to teach, instruct and travels to conferences across Canada.

Presentation Description: Booker T. Washington once said, “I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles overcome while trying to succeed.” Research has established that resilience is essential for a child to be successful. Learn about the different tools every teacher can use in the classroom to promote resilience.

Target Audience: All
Grade Level Focus: K-10


Breakout Session C

2:00 pm – 3:15 pm

C.1: Creativity and Learning Disabilities: A Hidden Potential

Presenter: John McNamara, Ph.D., Professor, Child and Youth Studies, Brock University. John is a Professor in the Child and Youth Studies Department at Brock University. His research centers around supporting children and youth with learning disabilities. John currently supports several agencies in running Reading Rocks, a program to support and motivate vulnerable readers. At Brock John runs a research team that studies interventions for children with learning disabilities. He has published and presented at several international conferences and workshops around supporting vulnerable readers.

Presentation Description: Growing up creative is important in today’s classrooms. As education seeks to prepare children for their futures, it is important that the system considers traditional as well as nontraditional pathways. In general, children with learning disabilities
struggle within traditional learning models. For several decades. stakeholders have attempted to develop reading-based interventions – although such interventions have produced only moderate results. This presentation will explore a non-traditional learning pathway that focuses on creative problem solving – an inherent strength of children with learning disabilities that the field is just beginning to understand. In this presentation, data will be presented that illustrates the creative problem-solving profiles of children with learning disabilities. Children with learning disabilities, a presumed left-hemispheric processing problem, tend to process information with the right side of the brain. In over-using their right hemisphere, it may be that children with learning disabilities have well-developed right hemispheres and as such, have strengths associated with this type of processing such as innovation and creativity. The key message is that brain processing associated with learning disabilities is not simply a barrier to learning; rather it is a reflection of an entirely different pattern of brain organization – one that predisposes children to important abilities.

Target Audience: Elementary teachers, Secondary teachers, EA, Professionals, Parents
Grade Level Focus: Primary, Junior

C.2: Recognizing and Understanding Girls with ADHD: An Overview of Myths and Common Differences in Clinical Presentations

Presenters: Dr. Sharon Carson, MD, FRCP(C); Dr. Laura Gerber, MD FRCP(C): Drs. Sharon Carson and Laura Gerber have been consulting pediatricians in Burlington, Ontario since 2001 and 2003 respectively. The main focus of their consulting practice is the assessment and treatment of children with developmental, learning, behavioural, and mental health issues. They are particularly passionate about increasing understanding within the medical and educational communities about the many faces of ADHD. They have been presenters at the National ADHD conference, CADDRA. They are also on the steering committee of Caroline Families First, a pilot project geared to improving the delivery of mental health services.

Presentation Description: ADHD is a prevalent diagnosis, but girls are often misdiagnosed or diagnosed later in life. This talk will provide an overview of ADHD and the common differences in its presentation in girls, common myths about girls with ADHD, an overview of the comorbidities that may occur with a delayed diagnosis of ADHD and a brief overview of treatment strategies.

Target Audience: Anyone
Grade Level Focus: Junior/Intermediate

C.3: Climbing the Literacy Ladder

Presenter: Dagney Gardiner, M.Ed., B.Ed., B.A.(Hons), K-12 Learning Coach, Toronto District School Board. Dagney Gardiner is an innovative Ontario educator and advocate for inclusivity. With a Masters in Counselling Psychology and over 10 years of experience in Special Education programming and design, Dagney has researched and implemented evidence-based programming to support access to learning in the Toronto District School Board and in the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Provincial Schools Branch. Universal Design for Learning informs the foundation of her teaching approach, and leadership in scaffolding the accessibility and inclusivity of school communities. Dagney loves to learn and integrate new strategies and ideas to improve the opportunities available to those with whom she works.

Presentation Description: Literacy support for at-risk and exceptional students must be embedded across all subject-areas. By unpacking and exploring before, during and after reading strategies, we will look at the evidence that supports these as best practices. Then, we will explore practical educator and student moves that will build up literate learners immediately. Each strategy will include ways to put this into action and ways to contextualize literacy skills, such as inferring, connecting, etc. This session will incorporate some interactive components that will enable you to tryout tools to reinforce literacy skill development.

Target Audience: Elementary and secondary teachers
Grade Level Focus: Intermediate

C.4: App Smashing – Exploring Digital Tools For Everyday Support

Presenter:Sam Goving, Training and Marketing Manager with Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board, OCT Educator, Educational Technologist, College Professor, Professional Nerd: It all began with Q-Bert. Sam has avoided fresh air his whole life and it’s finally paying off. His experience includes ESL education, a brief stint with LDA-London Region, teaching at Fanshawe College and working as an educational technologist with Amethyst Demonstration School. He is proud to finally call himself a professional nerd and hopes to share some tech tips and tricks to make LD learners and everyone else’s lives easier.

Presentation Description: We are living in the Wild West of educational technology. Everyone and their uncle has a new app, peripheral, or procedure they want you to use in your classroom. This workshop is designed to introduce you to new and existing educational tech and how to use them to benefit students with LDs! We will focus on the Universal Design for Learning model and how using digital tools to aid students with LDs will help the entire class. Learn how Google Drawings can be used on it’s own to create infographics or how to “app-smash” it to embed signatures in a resume. Explore geographic tools online to enhance classroom learning. Discover free audio-visual editing tools that work inside your browser. This presentation takes audience requests, so bring your phone or tablet and have your voice be heard

Target Audience: Teachers and SERTs
Grade Level Focus: Junior, Intermediate and Senior