Community Education and Engagement Program
The Community Education and Engagement (CEE) is primarily a program of prevention, delivered through public education and outreach. Recognizing that widespread understanding of learning disabilities contributes to healthier environments for children and families, the CEE Program was established in 1994 with the following goals:
• To promote a community-wide understanding of children, youth and their families who are dealing with mental health issues and learning disabilities, in order to increase empathy and support.
• To reduce stigma around mental health issues and learning disabilities by improving societal attitudes towards those with both emotional and learningchallenges.
•To improve outcomes for children, youth and their families dealing with mental health issues complicated by learning disabilities.
By providing interactive workshops and training, the program builds understanding and 19 competence in parents, guardians and family members, other caregivers, educators and other professionals who interact with children and youth with learning disabilities. In addition to our flagship “Walk a Mile In My Shoes” workshop, we offer a broad range of topics pertaining to Learning Disabilities and Mental Health and we develop innovative new workshops in response to individual request. The program is fee-based.
Individual Therapy and Counselling
Our team of child and family therapists is comprised of compassionate, highly educated and innovative individuals with expertise in the field of mental health and learning disabilities. Our staff is dedicated to helping children and youth understand their learning disabilities and develop coping mechanisms, improved self-esteem and confidence.
We provide evidence-informed individual therapy in response to assessed need. Individual therapy always begins with an understanding of the child or youth’s learning style and is adapted to the individual’s information-processing strengths and stage of development. For example,for children and youth with mental health issues and learning disabilities who struggle with anxiety, we may provide cognitive behaviour therapy.
Parent and Family Therapy and Counselling
Knowing that the family is often the best resource for a vulnerable child, and that the whole familyisimpacted by a child’s mental health issues, therapists meet with parents and guardians of the children and youth in our care. Our work is based on mutually agreed upon goals that are reviewed and revised regularly. Where appropriate, therapists use evidence-informed practices, such as collaborative problem solving or solution- focused therapy. Family and Parent Counselling helps parents and families to:
• Understand the child or youth’smental health issues and learning disability;
• Recognize how the learning disability affects the child or youth’s feelings, relationships and everyday functioning;
• Improve family relationships and communication;
• Lessen family conflict; and
• Support parents to manage their children’s behaviour and other parenting stresses.
Feelings First: Supporting Emotion Regulation for Children and Youth with LDMH
The Feelings First: Supporting Emotion Regulation for Children and Youth with LDMH program is based on an Emotion-Focused Therapy approach for parents. Feelings First is an 8-week program that supports parents of children and youth with Learning Disabilities who experience intense emotions, have difficulty regulating their emotions and/or behaviour and/or have mental health challenges. Parents attend weekly 1.5-hour webinars and receive weekly-individualized phone calls/virtual meetings with a clinician. Feelings First focuses on emotions, the healing power of families, empowering parents to be their child’s ‘feel good option,’ and skill training. Feelings First includes information specific to children with Learning Disabilities.
Skills learned in the Feelings First Webinar and expanded on in the phone calls/virtual meetings with a clinician include:
- Understanding behaviour from an emotion lens (your own, your child’s)
- Learning about and working with emotion (i.e., your own, your child’s), or in other words, emotional self-efficacy (via ‘emotions 101’, learning about emotion avoidance) and emotion processing through validation.
- Deeply validating your child with an apology (i.e., healing ‘old wounds’).
- Learning about your boundaries (i.e., how your boundary style influences your well-being and impacts behaviour).
- Ways of addressing your child’s behaviour (i.e., baskets, values, and making ‘relationship deposits’ to improve communication and connection with your child)
- Learning new ways of understanding and working with your ‘competing motivations’ (i.e., awareness of what emotions come up/get in the way when supporting your child).
Social Competence Groups for Children and Youth
Children and youth with learning disabilities experience more difficulties than most children in developing social competence. Social competence is a complex and interconnected set of knowledge and skillsthat come naturally to most people, but can be a challenge for children with learning disabilities. Social competence can include understanding social context and knowing what behaviour might be appropriate in a given social situation. Social competence can also include the ability to understand non-verbal cues, like facial expressions and body language; to be organized; or to manage emotions. Difficulty with social competence can be devastating to a child or youth with a learning disability and can lead to social isolation, peer rejection or loneliness.
The goal of the Social Competence Group Program is to improve the child/youth’s social functioning and social skills at school, at home and in the community. Group composition is carefully determined, factoring in each child’s individual learning and mental health needs to ensure success. Groups can range from two to eight participants, and children are matched carefully based on evidence-informed factors that affect social competence.
Groups are led by highly-trained clinicians with a specialization in providing support to children and youth with mental health issues complicated by learning disabilities. Social competence is taught experientially in groups that are guided, safe, fun and engaging.
Towhee Summer Residential Program
Towhee provides a life-changing experience where children and youth find a place of belonging within a unique camp setting in Haliburton, Ontario. This evidence-informed, 21 therapeutic program welcomes participants ages 10–18 to express themselves and regulate their emotions through adventure-based activities and a challenge-by-choice philosophy, all while feeling safe and supported.
Staff and counsellors who are highly trained and experienced with children and youth with mental health issues and learning disabilities, along with on-going consultation with Integra’s team of child and family therapists, help create a positive camp experience for this at-risk population.
Towhee’s goals are:
• To improve the mental health wellness of our campers, boys and girls ages 10-18 with mental health difficulties complicated by the presence of learning disabilities;
• To provide a uniquely supportive and safe environment where our campers can take calculated risks, and feel safe enough to let go of whatever barriers to success might be in their way; and,
• To create community. Our campers are taught to celebrate the many positive attributes of their learning differences, as well as those of their fellow campers. For this reason, many of our campers will say that Towhee isthe first place where they feltthey belonged.
These goals are achieved through an evidence-informed, therapeutic-based program that includes Experiential Arts (therapeutic music, dance, drama and visual arts), Adventure-Based Learning (canoeing, out-tripping and waterfront activities), the Excel Program (ropes course and climbing wall), and a Leaders in Training program. Towhee is a fee-based program and bursaries are available.
For more information about Towhee, please visit www.childdevelop/towhee
For Towhee Summer Residential Program applications, click here.
Mindfulness Martial Arts
Mindfulness Martial Arts (MMA) is a 19-week group program for youth 12-18 years old with learning disabilities and self-regulation disorders (i.e., anxiety, depression, disruptive behaviour). MMA integrates elements of evidence-based interventions (Mindfulness, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Behaviour Therapy, Parent-Child Meetings) with Martial Arts Training to create a comprehensive and innovative group intervention that promotes mental health and physical wellness and addresses key challenges in emotionregulation.
Results of over 10 years of research of Mindfulness Martial Arts program outcomes include:
• Significant improvements in core executive functions (i.e., impulse control and cognitive 22 flexibility; Milligan, Badali et al.,2010);
• Youth with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and learning disabilities show significant improvements in disruptive behaviour;
• Youth with anxiety show significant improvements in anxiety (Haydicky et al., 2012);
• Preliminary data from recent 2013/14 research in changes in neurobiology supports improvements in attention control;
• MMA encourages physical and mental health wellness, and counsels good nutrition and lifestyle choices;
Mindfulness Martial Arts gives children and youth with mental health issues and learning disabilities the opportunity to learn new skills and take calculated risks in a safe, supportive environment, something they may avoid trying in other social settings (school, teams, clubs, etc.). Mindfulness Marital Arts is a fee-based program.
Young Warriors (YW) is an innovative, developmentally appropriate 19-week group intervention program developed for children ages 9 to 11 years with learning disabilities and difficulties with attention and self-regulation. The program integrates components that have demonstrated efficacy for this hard-to- engage population of children (e.g., behaviour principles; graduated approach to teaching skills; breaking down each new skill into small component parts; use of drama and humour to engage attention; parent-child interactive exercises; home skill practice) in the context of Aikido (Art of Peace) martial arts training. YW targets two primary outcomes: improved self-regulation; and increased interpersonal awareness. YW is a fee-based program.