Preschool age child in a Learning Disabilities Society program engaging with a social robot.


Empowering families and children with learning differences to thrive

May 1, 2023
When the Garcia* family received the news that their son, David**, could no longer attend daycare, they were devastated and didn’t know what to do next. Due to the behaviours he was exhibiting, the daycare centre determined that they did not have adequate support to address his unique learning needs. Left with limited options, the family was fortunate to get connected to the Learning Disabilities Society. 
Did you know that approximately 1 in 10 children are impacted by a learning disability? Students with learning disabilities or differences such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD and more benefit greatly from individualized learning support. The support they receive helps them build confidence and self-esteem, setting students up for the best possible outcome in school and beyond.  
Learning Disabilities Society strives to help children and youth across BC learn their own way, setting them up to succeed in school and life. They accomplish this through innovative, research-informed programming, many of which utilize assistive technology, including social robotics.

Early intervention is critical 

Early childhood years are critical for a child's development, especially for those with learning differences. Research shows that early intervention accelerates cognitive and social development, reduces behavioral issues, and can prevent compounding challenges later in life. 
In recent years, an increasing number of concerned parents have approached the Learning Disabilities Society seeking support for their preschool-aged children who are struggling with learning or behavioural issues. In response to this and increasing family demand, the organization developed the Early RISErs program.
Early RISErs is built on the foundation that every child should have the opportunity to participate and have meaningful experiences, regardless of their learning differences. Whether it’s a family that received the news that their child can no longer attend a daycare program because of the behaviours they exhibit like the Garcia’s, or a child that received a diagnosis that’s impacting their ability to integrate into a learning environment, Early RISErs is there to help support them through their individualized learning journeys. 

Early RISERs: A first of its kind

The Early RISErs program brings professionals from different disciplines together and makes them accessible to children and families all in one space. These early childhood professionals assess children with learning differences in one-to-one and group settings. By engaging children and their parent or guardian, along with speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, early childhood educators, behavioural interventionists, kindergarten teachers and instructors, families can receive in-depth insights into their child’s development. At the end of the 10-week program, they are provided with a detailed snapshot of their child’s learning and development needs, which helps parents support and advocate for them, ultimately setting their kids up for success in kindergarten and beyond.
“Participating in Early RISErs has been incredibly meaningful and impactful for my son, and our family. The program is just what we feel our son needed - a close look at his skills and development from different professionals. We have learned so much about his development, interests, skills and personality.”

- Parent of a three-year-old child in Early RISErs

Thanks to a TELUS Vancouver & Coastal Community Board Grant, we’re helping fund assistive technology like social robotics that Learning Disabilities Society uses to support children in the Early RISErs program. This grant builds on the partnership we started with them in 2021 after TELUS funded LDS Access, a ‘mobile electric classroom on wheels’ providing kids with access to critical learning support services in their communities.

Innovations in assistive technology: Social robotics

QT, the social robot that is used in Learning Disabilities Society’s programs.
An assistive robot is a device that can sense and process sensory information and perform actions that benefit children in their daily lives. Through a partnership with the University of Waterloo, Learning Disabilities Society started working with QT (pictured above), a social robot, to engage children in emotional regulation and social skills exercises. QT is used during group activities to help draw attention to behaviours and work on labelling and communicating feelings. Since the kids enjoy QT so much, they added the ability to teach phonics and literacy skills. 

David was reintegrated back into daycare

Another photo of a preschool age child in a Learning Disabilities Society program engaging with a social robot.
With the support of our donors, partners and visionary organizations like Learning Disabilities Society, the Garcia family was able to advocate for their son and get him back into daycare. Together, we’re empowering families to help their children with learning differences participate in age-appropriate learning environments that help them improve their social interactions, develop new skills and build confidence.
* Surname changed to keep family anonymous
** First name changed to keep son anonymous