Special Edition Newsletter - March/April 2023

 Decorative iconA newsletter to support those in York Region who work with students with exceptional learning strengths & needs.

Content of this Newsletter

Monthly Highlights

  • World Down Syndrome Day
  • Celebrate the Spectrum- Autism Acceptance Month
  • Life After High School
  • R;pple Tool

Spotlighting Excellence, Achievement & Community

  • Communication Contest

Important Dates

  • Autism Ontario
    • York Region Summer Camp Program
  • Council for Exceptional Children 
    • Yes I Can Awards- May 10, 2023
  • Easter Seals
    • Red Shirt Day - May 31, 2023
  • Learning Disabilities Association of York Region
    • Parent Support Group
    • SOAR Elementary Transitions
    • SOAR Secondary Transitions
    • Strategies for Life
    • Tutoring Program
  • York Support Services Network
    • What’s Next? Life After High School


Monthly Highlights

World Down Syndrome Day

On March 21st, schools across York Region celebrated World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) by wearing colourful, fun mismatched socks. Messages were shared about inclusion and why we celebrate Down syndrome on March 21st.

March 21-World Down Syndrome Day. Four images of student art of mismatched socks and 4 pictures of individuals wearing mismatched socks

“On Tuesday, March 21st we joyfully celebrated World Down Syndrome Day as we do every year on 3/21.  We celebrate the 3rd copy of the 21st chromosome in people we know and love who are living with Down syndrome.  We had a great deal of support in this regard from the York Region District School Board and the York Catholic District School Board; both Boards participated in circulating videos and print materials to their schools and encouraged staff and students to “Rock Your Socks”, showing support for all things that may seem different but are perfect in their own way.  We also saw numerous municipalities in York Region show their support with a Down Syndrome of York Region Flag Raising event. “

- Down Syndrome Association of York Region

Three photos with a yellow and blue border and the down syndrome awareness blue and yellow ribbon in the middle. The photos are of flag raising in Vaughan and Georgina and an assembly at a school.


Celebrate the Spectrum

On Friday, March 31st, YRDSB students, staff and community members from our valued partner organizations joined together at The Education Centre Aurora to raise the flag to Celebrate the Spectrum for World Autism Day on April 2, 2023. 

We all share a common goal - to support our students with Autism (ASD). Together, we support our learners with ASD by understanding and valuing their individual strengths and needs, and by building learning environments where they matter and belong. 

During the month of April, YRDSB will be Celebrating the Spectrum for World Autism Acceptance Month. Throughout the month, we will focus on moving from awareness of ASD, which emphasizes differences, to acceptance of ASD, which helps us focus on the commonalities we share and the beauty of diversity. We encourage all schools to share how they #CelebrateTheSpectrum by tagging us on Twitter @YRDSB_SS

Please visit the Autism Ontario Celebrate the Spectrum website for events, activities and information on how you can Celebrate the Spectrum throughout the month of April.


The text Diversity is our strength is at the top of the graphic. Below is a rainbow heart and the words- Celebrate the Spectrum and Autism Acceptance Month. There are four images of the YRDSB flag raising event at the bottom.


Life After High School

On Monday, March 1, the YRDSB Deaf and Hard of Hearing department at Alexander Mackenzie High School hosted an event for parents, educators and Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. It was the first time in three years the event was held in person. The evening began with post-secondary student and alumni presentations on navigating post-secondary school with hearing loss. Katrina Cotran, Landon Fink and Natalie Wong shared their experiences and tips on accessing accommodations for post-secondary education. 

Following the presentations, attendants were able to meet representatives from George Brown College, Seneca College, York University, Canadian Hearing Services and the Dog Guides of Canada to ask questions and find out more about post-secondary supports, technology and scholarships available. 

Thank you to the staff at Alexander Mackenzie and the amazing MCs, Elliot and Ben, for hosting this wonderful event.

Life After High School. A collage of four images. Top left is a picture of three students at that attended the event. Top Right is a picture of the MCs. Bottom left is a student standing beside a York University sign. Bottom right is a student and staff group picture with Dog Guides of Canada.



R;pple logo

In our continued work to foster student Well-Being and Mental Health, we have added R;pple© to the YRDSB wifi network as a Google Chrome browser extension.  The extension is deployed through the YRDSB GAPPS environment meaning if a student is not logged into their browser with their GAPPS account, the tool would not be initiated.

R;pple© is a tool which presents a life promoting message and helpful resources (such as kidshelpphone) when a student searches for harmful keywords or phrases related to self-harm or suicide.  No personal information is collected and students are not identifiable. Please see the YRDSB Student Suicide Intervention Protocol for more information about Student Suicide Prevention and Life Promotion.

For more information and tips on fostering mental health and well-being, check out the YRDSB Mental Health page and  monthly newsletters


Spotlighting Excellence, Achievement & Community

Communication Contest

On Wednesday, March 29, the YRDSB Communication Competition was held in partnership with Optimist International for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. This yearly competition has been running for over 20 years. The objective of the competition was to create a speech centered around the theme of “Discovering the Optimism within Me.” Participants in the Junior and Senior Division created exemplary speeches sharing personal experiences of what optimism means to them and where they find optimism in their lives. 

Congratulations to all of the participants and the winners of each division.

Group photo of the Communication Contest participants holding their framed certificates.

Junior Division

  • 1st Place: Isaiah Irvin, Trillium Woods PS

  • 2nd Place: Kiana Kachooie, Trillium Woods PS

  • 3rd Place:  Yeva Orzhekhovska, Greensborough PS

Communication contest junior winners with Optimist International representative.

“I discovered optimism within myself through a variety of life situations and I learned that being optimistic can get you a long way and make your journey through life a little bit easier… When we’re surrounded by negativity it’s very difficult to discover optimism within ourselves. I’ve learned over the last little while that optimism is a choice and we all have the ability to find optimism within ourselves.”

- Excerpt from Isaiah’s Irvin speech

Senior Division

  • 1st Place: Elliot Kritzer, Alexander Mackenzie HS

  • 2nd Place: Sydney Love, King City SS

Communication contest senior winners with Optimist International representative.

“Optimism is something that is inside of everyone, but it is up to each individual to discover what will motivate them to stay positive… One thing that I wish I could have said to myself 2 years ago was that optimism within yourself is so important. It's so valuable to have the strength to be able to believe in yourself, be yourself, and put in the effort everyday to change your attitude on yourself and life.”

- Excerpt from Elliot Kritzer’s speech

Our Junior and Senior winners will be moving on to the District Level competition. Good luck!


Important Dates

Autism Ontario

York Region Summer Camp Program 

Registration is now open and the camp will be located at a Public School in the Yonge and Elgin Mills area. Camper drop off is between 9am and 9:30am and pick up is between 3pm and 3:30pm. Campers are supported with at least 1:1 support and the fee to families for each week is $850. This includes the 1:1 support as well as all the outings and activities that occur that week.  

Online Registration will remain open until April 16th and is not on a first come first serve basis. Please note that parent(s)/guardian(s) will need to create a user account with a valid email in order to register.


Council for Exceptional Children

Yes I Can Awards 

The Yes I Can Awards honour children and youth with exceptionalities who shine. The 2023 Yes I Can Awards will be celebrated on May 10th at 4:30 p.m at Richmond Green Secondary School. 


Easter Seals

Red Shirt Day 

Red Shirt Day, Wednesday, May 31, is a day when people across Canada come together and wear red in schools, workplaces and spaces everywhere in order to create a visible display of solidarity: to show their support for persons and families who are living with disabilities, celebrate the achievements of people living with disabilities, and to pledge their commitment to help create a fully accessible and inclusive society that honours and values the contributions of people of all abilities in all aspects of life in Canada. 


Learning Disabilities Association of York Region

Parent Support Group  

Parent(s) and/or guardian(s) are welcome to attend the Virtual Support Group to help guide caregivers through different stages of accepting and managing their child’s Learning Disabilities and/or ADHD. This is a monthly opportunity to meet and share common experiences, handle emotions, strategize for strengths and challenges in a positive way. By creating a safe and inclusive space, LDAYR will bring awareness and foster confidence in parenting skills. This is a free program held once a month on Thursday nights via Zoom. For more information, please contact nina.shwaizer@ldayr.org or 906-884-7933 ext.5.

Register Online 


SOAR Transitions Elementary

This program will help Grade 7 – 8 participants identified with Learning Disabilities and/or ADHD to develop life skills to succeed academically and vocationally. Participants will be provided with strategies on how people learn in different ways, how Learning Disabilities affect people's lives and what students can do to receive assistance in school. SOAR equips students with the knowledge and understanding of LD’s they need to succeed in high school and beyond. Sessions will be customized for one-to-one or group settings for 45 minutes for 4 weeks. For more information,, please contact Sam Harrison at sam.harrison@ldayr.org or (905) 884-7933 ext. 6.

Register Online


SOAR Transitions Secondary

This program is for participants in secondary school identified with Learning Disabilities and/or ADHD. The foundation of this program is built on the development of self advocacy skills, such skills that will benefit the participant both academically and vocationally. Participants will gain an understanding of their strengths and areas of difficulty, as well as an understanding of their LD and/or ADHD. Information also will be given on how to transition from post-secondary and/or the workplace, along with assistance for the making of academic and career choices with a greater potential for success. Sessions will be customized for one-to-one or group settings for 45 minutes for 4 weeks. For more information, please contact Sam Harrison at sam.harrison@ldayr.org or (905) 884-7933 ext. 6.

Register Online


Strategies for Life 

This program is designed for youth and adults diagnosed with, or suspected to have, a Learning Disability and/or ADHD, between the ages of 19 to 29. This is a nine session individual counseling program that focuses on the socio-emotional effects of LDs and ADHD. This program identifies unique challenges participants face, and work towards developing resiliency, and skills necessary to thrive in their lives to achieve overall well-being. Participants can focus (up to three) on the following topics: Transitions, Financial Literacy and Budgeting, Advocacy, Social Skills, Anxiety and/or Stress Management, Learning Strategies, Coping Skills and Strategies, and Mindfulness, Self-Awareness and Understanding. For more information, please contact nina.shwaizer@ldayr.org or 906-884-7933 ext. 5.

Register Online


Tutoring Program 

This program is for kids with Learning Disabilities and/or ADHD. Tutoring can help relieve stress, support important language and math skills, improve student confidence and self-esteem, and alleviate educational burden on parents. Students are matched with volunteer tutors from different diverse and educational backgrounds. For more information, please contact jeremy.jor@ldayr.org or call 905-884-7933 ext. 3.

Register Online


York Support Services Network 

What’s Next? Life After High School

This is a series of four workshops for caregivers of teens 15-18 with a developmental disability from May 4-25. There is also a group for teens 15-18 with a developmental disability (limit of 12 participants), also running May 4-25. Caregivers can choose to attend any or all of the workshops, regardless of whether their children take part. For more information and to register, please visit the YSSN website.


Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) Meetings

The SEAC meets on the first Thursday of every month. All are welcome to attend and observe. For more information about SEAC and our SEAC members, please visit the SEAC webpage.

Upcoming SEAC Meetings

The meeting dates for the remainder of the year are set out below. 

  • April 13, 2023 
  • May 4, 2023
  • June 1, 2023


decorative image