Those with learning disabilities need support


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/09/2022 (247 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In my fourth year of medical school, I was fortunate to have an elective in which I spent three months with Prof. John Soothill at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital in London. It was a stimulating time, as he was a brilliant scientist and clinician, and he was a fountain of ideas. But when I arrived, he startled me by saying right at the beginning that he had dyslexia and had to learn virtually everything by listening to others, for he had great difficulty reading. Reading was almost useless to him as a source of information.

During medical school, he listened intently to his teachers, for he was unable to learn from books. With this approach, he passed his medical school exams and went on to become an incredible physician who showed empathy and understanding toward children and their families who struggled with health conditions. He knew what it was like to struggle. It helped him understand others, and he reached out to those who, like him, had a learning disability.

For a time, he sat on the board which made decisions on who would be accepted into Oxford University. He looked out for those with learning disabilities because he recognized that if they had made it as far as to be applying to Oxford, they deserved to have their struggles rewarded by being accepted.

From that point on, I determined that I would look out for those with learning disabilities in order to understand and to help them. I quickly learned that children and adults with dyslexia, if given a helping hand, can do very well and succeed when given the opportunity. I have been able to advocate for and to help others since.

But all too often, children and adults do not get the help they need. This year, Tomas Ponzilius, who has a learning disability, is working in my office. He is helping me advocate for others with learning disabilities.

Though those with learning disabilities often struggle their whole lives, a particularly difficult period is when they turn 18. All of a sudden, the help and support from programs that had been provided during childhood and their teenage years is removed. This is a particular problem for those who have — as part of their learning disability, including autism or ADHD — a learning difficulty called an executive function disorder.

This past year Newfoundland decided to make a change so that people with autism will be supported based on their needs not based on their age. It is a change we need in Manitoba and one that Tomas Ponzilius and I are advocating for.

Please let us know if you can help. We have petitions in our office and will gladly send one out for you to sign. Please email or call 204-945-5194 to arrange for a petition to be sent to you. Please do not hesitate to write or call if you have ideas about what can be done to help and support children and adults with learning disabilities.

Jon Gerrard

Jon Gerrard
River Heights constituency report

Jon Gerrard is Liberal MLA for River Heights.

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