Developing literacy skills
By Joey Sahli, Literacy Coordinator, Surrey Association for Community Living
In March 2009 I was hired by the Surrey Association for Community Living (SACL) to facilitate the development and implementation of a literacy curriculum for adults with developmental disabilities. I have worked as a principal at every level of the school system, but never have I had a more rewarding experience working with a group of learners than working with the adults in our literacy classes. Their determination and joy for learning has been infectious.
SACL received funding from Human Resources Social Development Canada to conduct a two-year literacy pilot project. This is the first initiative of its kind in Canada. As the literacy coordinator, I have the privilege of working with an Advisory Committee, including representation from a self-advocate, a parent, the Surrey School District, the City of Surrey, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, SACL and Community Living BC.
Drawing on the expertise of every member of the committee, we completed a draft of the literacy curriculum by December 2009. The focus of this curriculum is on the literacy skills that contribute to the quality of daily living as a member of a social network, a community member, a resident, and an employee or volunteer. In January 2010, we hired a teacher, and with a support worker from SACL, we started our first six months of classes.
The development of confidence and the growth in independence displayed by the adults in the two classes exceeds our expectations. For example, on the first day of class, one woman was afraid to walk unaided to the classroom at L.A. Matheson Secondary School. By the end of the week she was navigating the busy hallways independently. She now rides Handi-Dart at the beginning and end of each day by herself.
Another example is an individual with bipolar disorder whose caretaker was reluctant to send him to class due to severe anger management issues. This individual has not displayed a single incident of aggressive behaviour in the classroom over the past five months. The adults who came to us speaking in single words are now speaking in phrases and sentences. Other adults have read their first novel, and some are asking for help with spelling to write the grocery list at home.
This is a unique literacy opportunity for individuals eager to continue learning, as it includes a curriculum, an assessment protocol, and most importantly a qualified teacher. One of the outcomes that will be stressed in this pilot project is that adults with the most severe learning challenges deserve highly qualified instructors.
An application form for our second semester of classes, which runs from September 2010 to February 2011, can be found at www.commliv.com. We invite you to visit our classes to see the potential of these often forgotten learners when in an engaging learning environment.
For more information on this project, you can contact Joey at email@example.com or 778-988-3145.