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How can we support children without recognizing their unique backgrounds?

posted Jun 22, 2018, 8:10 AM by Ontario South

My name is Olivia, and I am the communication officer for RSEKN’s Southern Regional team. Over the last year, equity in education has become increasingly important to me. I am completing my first year of my PhD in School and Applied Child Psychology. That long program title means I am training to become a psychologist, working with children and adolescents in a variety of settings including the school environment. As a school and child psychologist, I will be working with children from various backgrounds, supporting them in their social, emotional and academic well-being. Throughout my learning, it is clear that assessment and intervention are not one size fits all. In order to provide each child and family with the best support, we must first consider who they are and learn their story. 

I have learned the importance of preparing each child in a way that best suits them and their needs. For example, when I received a referral for a child who had recently moved to Canada, I explored their culture to contextualize their lens, which both taught me more and helped me better understand the child. With this approach, I can better support and promote youth in a way that reminds them that they are valued. This same method should apply in all areas of my work. 

When we work with children, we must learn about what is going on in their lives in order to better support them. Classrooms were structured so that every child had to follow the same teaching and pass the same tests. I’d like to say that this has changed greatly. However, it is apparent that this continues to be an area of growth for our society. Each child comes into the school with their own story and their own needs. As educators, psychologists, support staff, principals and anyone else engaged in supporting children, it is our job to promote an environment that best reflects each of the children in our care. 

I work under the supervision of Dr. Jacqueline Specht, the director of the Canadian Research Centre on Inclusive Education. The goal of this center is to engage in research and work collaboratively with educators, organizations and agencies to encourage and support education for all students including those with exceptionalities. My personal experiences in volunteer and work have provided me with a unique understanding of the lives of individuals with exceptionalities throughout the lifespan. These experiences have lead to my research interests, which aim to develop greater knowledge for the social lives of adolescents with intellectual disabilities. Throughout my PhD, my goal is to increase my knowledge of the experiences of all individuals in order to be prepared to provide support in an equitable way. 

I believe in the RSEKN team initiative, to advocate and mobilize knowledge regarding best practices in equity. I hope this project will allow us to open up communication surrounding our guiding principles: race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status, newcomer status, language, and disability. In my position as the RSEKN Southern communication officer, I am excited to meet new and diverse people, and learn about the work being done across Ontario to address systemic barriers for marginalized youth and students. 

“A strength-based classroom is a place where students with all sorts of labels come together as equals to form a new type of learning environment.”  - Thomas Armstrong,
author of 
Neurodiversity in the classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to help students with special needs succeed in school and life

Have a look at ASCD, an organization dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading, where they support children through their interactive model “The Whole Child”.












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