Special Edition Newsletter - May/June 2023

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


Content of this Newsletter

Monthly Highlights

  • National AccessAbility Week & Red Shirt Day
  • Students of Differing Abilities (SODA) Athletics and Activities Meet
  • Special Needs Athletics Program (SNAP) Track and Field Meet
  • Differing Abilities Robotics Expo (DARE)
  • Best Buddies Prom
  • VOICE Dress Loud Day
  • Children's Mental Health Awareness Week

Spotlighting Excellence, Achievement & Community

  • Yes I Can Awards

Important Dates

  • Learning Disabilities Association of York Region
    • Socials Skills Summer Camp
    • SOAR Transitions
    • Strategies for Life Counseling
    • Summer Jump Math Program
    • Summer Reading Rocks Program 
  • Council for Exceptional Children (CEC)
    • Ontario CEC’s 67th Annual Special Education Conference


Monthly Highlights

National Accessibility Week and Red Shirt Day

National AccessAbility Week (NAAW) begins on the last Sunday in May and this year was recognized between May 28 - June 3, 2023. The theme for this year was "Disability Inclusion: From Possibilities to Practice". National AccessAbility Week aims to:

  • celebrate the valuable contributions and leadership of Canadians with disabilities
  • highlight the work of individuals, organizations and communities who are removing barriers
  • reflect on our ongoing efforts to become a better, more accessible, more disability inclusive Canada

YRDSB Student Services is committed to supporting our students with opportunities that allow them to learn and grow. Removing barriers to their learning looks different for different individuals and videos were shared on YRDSB’s Instagram outlining some of these ways. Some students may require assistive technology, while other students may require accommodations or modifications in their learning.  Secondary students engaged in the Work Experience Program may require opportunities for hands-on learning in the workplace to develop essential skills needed for employment opportunities. 


What is Red Shirt Day? 

Red Shirt Day takes place on the Wednesday of National AccessAbility Week each year. This year, Red Shirt Day was on May 31, 2023 and is a day when people across Canada come together and wear red "to show their support for persons and families who are living with disabilities, to 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."(Source:  Easter Seals)

Two images. One of left says Red Shirt Day of action for accessibility and inclusion, Wednesday, 31 May 2023, www.redshirtday.ca, #RedShirtDay #RedForAccessAbility Wear Red. Make a Pledge. Support Canadians living with disabilities and help build more accessible and inclusive Canada. Image on the right. Picture of Rich Hansen in wheelchair with Canada flag beside him. It also includes the following text "The wheelchair should not be a symbol of disability. A wheelchair is a vehicle to liberation and freedom; a chariot for independence." Rick Hansen- Athlete, Activist, Philanthropist, Humanist. For more information and resources, visit www.RedShirtDay.ca..

Students of Differing Abilities Athletics and Activity Meet

On Tuesday, May 16th, YRDSB elementary students and staff participated in the Students of Differing Abilities (SODA) Athletics and Activity Meet at Bill Crothers Secondary School. This was the first year the event was held in person since 2019.  There were a variety of events and activities including: running, distance ball toss, corn hole, precision toss, obstacle course, bubbles, parachute, Play with Ophea!, Dance PossAbilities, Sphero Sports, and long jump. 

Six images with the text SODA 2023 in the middle. Top row images- Student in wheelchair hitting an inflatable bowling ball. Student completing obstacle course. Students showing all of his ribbons. Bottom row: Student doing long jump. Student playing soccer with Sphero robots. Two students playing cornhole.


Special Needs Athletic Program (SNAP) Track and Field Meet 

On May 17th, secondary students participated in a variety of events at the Special Needs Athletic Program(SNAP) Secondary Track and Field Event at Dr. J.M. Denison Secondary School. There were many different events which included running(100m & 200m), standing and running long jump, distance and precision ball toss and an obstacle course.

Four images with the text SNAP 2023 in the middle. Top left: Student from Westmount Collegiate Institute posing for a team photo. Top right: Students from Woodbridge College posing together holding school banner. Bottom left: Students lined up to run the 100m. Bottom right: Student in wheelchair completing obstacle course by throwing hula hoop on pylon.


Differing Abilities Robotics Expo (DARE) 

On April 26, the first ever YRDSB Differing Abilities Robotics Expo (DARE) was held at Bill Crothers Secondary Schools. Using a Sphero robot, YRDSB elementary students participated in various robotics and coding activities including: painting, mini-golf, programming, dance party, racing, and sports(bocce, soccer, bowling, swimming, wrestling & bowling). Check out this video to see some of the highlights from the day.

Six images with the text DARE 2023 in the middle. Top left: Student playing bowling. Top middle: Two students completing programming challenge. Top right: Students completing painting activity. Bottom left: Students playing Sphero soccer. Bottom middle: Students driving Sphero robot in water for Sphero swimming. Bottom right: Two students looking at Sphero mini-golf hole.

Congratulations to all the participants of SODA, SNAP and DARE.

Thank you to all the volunteer staff and students who made these days possible.


Best Buddies Prom 

Best Buddies Prom was held on May 25 at Grand Cinnamon Banquet and Convention Centre. The Best Buddies Prom is an annual event that takes place in May. Secondary students with exceptionalities and their Best Buddies are invited to attend this social event where students get to dress up, dance to the beats and hang out with their friends.Text in the middle reads Best Buddies Prom. Six images: Student wearing sunglasses holding his award.  Students in a group photo. Welcome to Best Buddies Prom sign. Students Dancing. Group photo of student participants. Student wearing white shirt with gold suspenders dancing.

Thank you to all the YRDSB staff for organizing, supporting and/or attending this wonderful event!


VOICE Dress Loud Day 

VOICE for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children celebrated Speech and Language Month with Dress Loud Day all May long. Students and staff were encouraged to wear their most colourful or loudest outfits to show “the world how wonderfully loud life can be… even for kids who are deaf and hard of hearing!”(Source: VOICE

VOICE shared various resources for educators and families to help build education around the deaf and hard of hearing community.  Check out their Dress Loud Day 2023 webpage to learn more about how to spread awareness and build education about what it means to be deaf and hard of hearing. 

VOICE for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children. Dress Loud Day! YRDSB Deaf and Hard of Hearing team group photo of team dressing loud.


Children's Mental Health Awareness Week

YRDSB Children's Mental Health and Awareness Week 2023

Every year in Ontario, the first week in May (May 1-5, 2023) is acknowledged as Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (CMHAW). This year, our YRDSB Mental Health team organized a variety of workshops and events for students to enhance their understanding of mental health and well-being. Additional information for educators and families about CMHAW was shared in the May Mental Health Newsletter, the 2023 CMHAW Toolkit as well as social media via the Mental Health YRDSB Twitter Account.  Check out these resources and the June Mental Health Newsletter for tips, programs and resources for the summer. 


Spotlighting Excellence, Achievement & Community

Yes I Can Awards 

Every May, a joint CEC Yes I Can Awards Ceremony is held with the York Region District School Board, York Region Catholic District School Board and the Ontario Council for Exceptional Children. On May 10, over 700 guests came together to celebrate the accomplishments of 170 students, while recognizing educators, staff and parents who teach, support and inspire students with exceptionalities.

Congratulations to all the award recipients! On behalf on the York Region District School Board, we would like to congratulate the following YRDSB award recipients:

  • Nstiki Mshayisa, recipient of the Parent of the Year Award

  • Tammy Richardson, Intervention Support Worker at Mount Albert P.S., Paraprofessional of the Year Award

  • Jaimie Kochberg-Ziv, Teacher at Discovery P.S., Teacher of the Year Award

  • Lori Higgins, Student Services Coordinator, Educational Leader of the Year Award

  • Paul Woods, Principal of Student Services, President's Award

  • Freshco-Mike Mazzone, Freshco Woodridge, Business Award


Provincial CEC Yes I Can Awards

Murathan Tekin, student at Richmond Green S.S., Self-Advocacy 
Murathan wearing his Yes I can medal with award presenters.

This year Murathan has demonstrated a tremendous amount of self-advocacy. He started work experience at Plato’s Closet and demonstrated enthusiasm, determination, and a positive work ethic! In January Murathan had a successful interview with the Pathways to Employment and Applied Knowledge (PEAK) Program, and started in February! Additionally, Murathan set personal goals around traveling in the community, health and fitness goals, and self-advocacy goals. Murathan set a goal to join a gym as he was learning about the benefits of daily activity in his fitness class. Today he enjoys going to the gym to exercise, as it helps keep his mind and body healthy! On a low day, Murathan researched strategies for mental wellness, and quickly started a daily gratitude journal which he shared with his teachers and peers. He also gave an excellent presentation about goal setting to his class, and encouraged them to create their own goals and develop a plan to reach them! In his presentation, Murathan acknowledged his growth and maturity. He expressed the growth in his confidence and outlook! Murathan's teachers are very proud of his efforts, and all he has achieved this year!

Alan Chen, student at Armadale P.S., School & Community Activities 
Alan with medal in front of YES I Can sign

Alan enjoys being involved in many aspects of his school community. He volunteers a lot of his free time (e.g., recess, lunch, after school) to support many of his school’s sports teams as well as helping out other schools when they visit for games. This year, Alan tried out for and made the basketball team, which was a highlight for him. He enjoys playing all kinds of sports, and making the team had a positive impact on him. He has grown in his self-confidence and has made many new friendships. Within his classroom, Alan is an extremely positive role model for the rest of the students. He encourages them to get involved in organized activities within the school. He is often referred to as his class’ technology guru, as he is very knowledgeable in many tech aspects and helps to support students and staff to solve their tech issues. Alan is such a bright spot in his classroom and within his school. His glowing personality and kind nature has been a wonderful addition to Armadale Public School.


Important Dates

Council for Exceptional Children

Ontario CEC’s 67th Annual Special Education Conference

  • Well-being, Equity, and Success for All - Enhancing learning and life outcomes for students with special education needs
  • November 24 – 25, 2023
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • For additional information, please contact: Cindy Perras, Conference Coordinator cindy.perras@gmail.com


Learning Disabilities Association of York-Simcoe

Social Skills Summer Camp

In a safe, encouraging and positive environment, learning social skills has never been so much fun! Skills learned include introducing oneself, ways to make friends, responding to teasing, being a good winner and loser, dealing with emotions, problem solving, relaxations, and self-esteem. 

Location and Dates

  • Newmarket: July 17th to 21st and July 24th to 28th
  • Richmond Hill: July 31st to August 4th and August 14th to 18th

For more information please contact Meghan Beals, Social Development Coordinator, at meghan.beals@ldays.org or 905-884-7933 extension 2. Online Registration


SOAR Transitions - Elementary & Secondary

SOAR Transition Programs are designed to support students in grades 8 and 12 through graduation and beyond with tips and strategies for organization, time management, and self-advocacy. Regardless of where they go next, SOAR can help! 

Location: In person or Virtual - One on One or Group Setting 

For more information, please contact Sam Harrison, Education Outreach Coordinator at sam.harrison@ldays.org or 905-884-7933 extension 6. 


Strategies for Life Counseling 

A one-to-one program, 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 (9) session individual counseling program that focuses on the socio-emotional effects of LDs and ADHD. ***If between ages 15 to 18 please contact us for eligibility. 

Location: In person or Virtual - One on One 

For more information please contact Rachel Liscio, Caseworker, at rachel.liscio@ldays.org or 905-884-7933 extension 4. Online Registration


Summer Jump Math Program

JUMP Math is a virtual program for students aged 8-14 who are performing a minimum of one year behind in the area of math due to a diagnosed learning disability. 

Summer Dates: Program will run 8 weeks Tuesdays and Thursday 

  • July: 4th,6th,11th,13th,18th,20th, 25th and 27th
  • August: 1st, 3rd, 8th, 10th,15th,17th,22nd,24th

For more information please contact Jeremy Jor, Tutor Programs Coordinator, at jeremy.jor@ldays.org or 905-884-7933 extension 3. Online Registration


Summer Reading Rocks Program 

Reading Rocks is an individualized reading intervention program designed by Brock University's Dr. John McNamara, who specializes in Learning Disabilities. This program is designed for students who are performing a minimum of one year behind in the area of literacy due to a diagnosed learning disability. 

Summer Dates: Program will run 8 weeks Mondays and Wednesdays 

  • July: 3rd, 5th, 10th, 12th, 17th 19th 24th, 26th and 31st
  • August 2nd, 7th, 9th, 14th, 16th, 21st and 23rd

For more information please contact Jeremy Jor, Tutor Programs Coordinator, at jeremy.jor@ldays.org or 905-884-7933 extension 3. Online Registration


May & June Must-Do's: How the school year ends can impact how the next one begins. 

This virtual event is presented by: Rebecca Greaves, OCT & OPC, Educational Consultant. www.theparentadvocate.ca  @theparentadvocate 


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.

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