If you are looking for help, here are some of the sorts of professionals you may meet, and what they do.
Classroom teachers will likely be the first professionals to notice a student’s learning issues. They can offer accommodations to students in terms of how lessons are taught and tests are administered, and teach students strategies they can use to compensate for weaknesses. Teachers may raise a student’s learning difficulties with other school professionals, request various forms of help, and begin the IEP and IPRC processes.
Special Education/Resource Teachers:
Teachers with special education training may teach special education classes, teach small groups of students on a withdrawal basis, and/or consult to regular classroom teachers. In high school, they help coordinate the accommodations provided by subject teachers.
Educational (Teacher’s) Assistants:
EAs work with students under the direction of a special education teacher, either in a special education class or in a regular classroom.
It is the responsibility of the school principal to make sure an IEP is developed and delivered. The principal can initiate the IPRC process, on request of the parent or after consulting the parent. The principal deals with school discipline issues and can make the final decision on grade retention or promotion.
Psychology professionals do psychological assessments, consult to teachers on teaching approaches and accommodations, and provide counselling to students. In Ontario, qualified members of the College of Psychologists are legally entitled to diagnose learning disabilities and ADHD, and to convey the diagnosis.
These are medical doctors who may assess for developmental, behavioural and/or mental health issues. Medical aspects of treatment for ADHD are often provided by one of these health professionals.
S/P pathologists can provide consultation, assessment and treatment services for both speech problems and language processing difficulties.
OTs can do assessment and/or treatment of motor and sensory-motor skills, including handwriting. Some OTs have expertise with nonverbal LDs.
There are many different kinds of counsellors, from guidance counsellors and youth counsellors in schools to mental heath counsellors and career counsellors. Their roles include informing, advising and problem-solving around a specific area of concern. The help they provide is usually more of a practical nature than psychotherapy.
These can include counsellors of all sorts as well as psychological therapists, art therapists and others. A therapist will generally help with the psychological/emotional aspects of LDs and ADHD, which can often have great impact on self-esteem and mood.
Recent years have seen the growth of another kind of helping professional – the coach. Coaches are not therapists, but rather help with the realization of goals, whether personal, career or academic. Coaches can do some of their work by phone or online. The coaching approach is increasingly used with individuals who have ADHD, and there are specialized training programs for ADHD coaches.
An advocate can help navigate the various educational and medical systems needed to access services in school or other educational institutions. There are private advocates, but advocacy services may also be offered by our local chapters.
Local LDA chapters can provide information on professionals in their community. If there is no chapter near you contact resource@LDAO.ca