There’s a fresh face at the Learning Disabilities Association of Red Deer.
Hannah Winsnes, an enthusiastic educator and lifelong learner, is the new part-time program director and said she has high hopes for a year of increased communication and engaging activities.
Winsnes, 43, was an educational assistant for a couple years before graduating as a teacher in 2011. She went on to teach Grades 4 and 5 before leaving to continue to pursue higher career aspirations.
“When I was a teacher I was just very drawn to the kids in the classroom that were not mainstream academic. I find I love the puzzle of trying to figure out what will work for them and going through all kinds of different steps, willing to try a million different things to find that one magic way that works for them,” she said.
“My daughter has also experienced difficulties in school so from a personal side, too, I see when they get it, their self-esteem and self-worth rises. … It’s so hard for kids to be in a system that’s not built for all their needs.”
Learning disabilities are a lifelong condition that affect up to one in 10 Canadians, states the association, which has been operating since 1989. This means approximately 30,000 individuals in Central Alberta and 10,000 in the Red Deer region need extra help when it comes to learning.
Winsnes is working to become enrolled in a master’s degree program for educational psychology, specializing in children with learning disabilities. Her new employment position is an “absolute, perfect fit,” for the future, she said.
She officially began at the association at the end of January and wants to see it reach new heights when it comes to parental involvement.
“I’d love to branch out to offer a parent and student support group,” she said.
“A lot of people come in overwhelmed about having a learning disability and not a clear understanding of what that means. They feel like it’s the end of the world but it’s really not, and just giving out more information so they can make better decision for themselves and their kids would be beneficial, I think.”
She’s also kicked off 2014 by bringing back a program the association hasn’t run in a while: Ultimate frisbee.
The program is great for skill acquisition, physical fitness and social competencies, Winsnes said.
Ultimate frisbee, offered thanks to funding from United Way, will start April 2 and cost $100 per participant.
As long as a minimum of 14 youth, ages 13 to 16, sign up, the program will run for eight weeks at the Collicutt Centre from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. There are a maximum of 21 spots open.
“It’s not highly skilled or overly competitive but it focuses on self refereeing so it teaches them how to deal with sportsmanship as well as calling the refereeing,” Winsnes said.
“It’s not aggressive. It’s more about fair behaviour and mutual respect and it’s great for those kids not interested in the more traditional sports.”
Winsnes is also running a second eight-week program, Think Social, which strives to assist students in “acquiring social competencies that foster and enhance relationships.” The early spring session began on Feb. 27 with nine students.
“School isn’t just about the academic. It’s also social so this program speaks to that. … One activity we talk about how to listen with your eyes or your hands and your feet.”
Students with learning difficulties and ADHD are presented with hands-on activities, role playing experiences and games to facilitate skill acquisition through Think Social.
Think Social will be starting again in the last week of April. Pre-registration is required and the cost is $250.
To register or for more information about the programs, contact Winsnes at 403-340-3885.