Monday, 10 December 2018

Top 4 Careers for Individuals Interested in Helping Children with Disabilities by Jill Howard, guest writer for Ability Online

Children with disabilities live with challenges early in life that can make even everyday tasks a struggle. However, these children have enormous potential and many can beat the odds to live fulfilling lives. While some children manage to rise to the challenge on their own, others do not have the tools they need to thrive, or simply need an extra boost to help them live up to their potential. 

If you have compassion for children with disabilities and you’d like to find a fulfilling career helping them, you have options. There are many jobs that allow you to help children with extra obstacles in life—you just need to find one that suits your skills and personality. Here are 4 of the top careers you might want to explore if you’re interested in helping children with disabilities. 

Why Helping Children with Disabilities Grow and Develop is Crucial 

Building resilience is important for any child, but it’s especially important for children with disabilities. Because they have additional obstacles to deal with, it’s important that they develop the tools to persevere when the going gets tough. Issues like bullying or difficulties completing schoolwork can take a toll on a child’s mental health, and these affect children with disabilities disproportionately. By giving these children extra help and encouragement, they can develop self-confidence and self-worthso they can live lives that are as full and happy as children without physical or mental challenges. We need people taking on careers to help these children to be a resource they can count on. 

1. Behavioral Analyst

A behavioral analyst applies the science of behavior to understand why people behave the way that they do. This is key in working with children with disabilities, who often exhibit behavior that is difficult to explain or modify. 

Behavioral analysts can help parents and educators to understand why a child behaves in a certain way and provide suggestions for intervening and reducing or improving behavior based on the child’s needs. By understanding the cause of unusual or unwanted behavior, analysts can help children integrate more successfully into the world and lead happier lives. 

Behavioral analysts typically need to earn a Master’s degree or a Graduate Certificate in Behavior Analysis. The average salary for a board-certified behavior analyst is around $60,000 per year. 

Check out these resources to learn more about studying behavior analysis: 

2. Clinical Psychologist 

Children’s disabilities can be mental, physical, or a combination of the two. Even children whose disabilities are only physical may experience emotional distress from how they are treated by others. For children who need mental health support, psychologists can play a major role. They may offer counseling and create a treatment program to help children overcome mental disabilities or cope with stresses in their lives. Clinical psychologists work in a range of settings, from private practice to schools or other institutions.  

To become a clinical psychologist, a PhD or Psy.D. is typically needed—a path that starts with a Psychology bachelor’s degree. Average salary for clinical psychologists is around $75,000 per year, but may be much more depending on the setting. 

3. Social Worker 

Social workers improve the lives of children with disabilities every day through their vigilance and dedication to creating positive outcomes. Most social workers provide guidance and oversight to help children thrive in their current environment or ensure that they are cared for in a more beneficial environment. Their job is to find solutions with children’s best interests at heart. 

Although social work is a rewarding field, it is emotionally challenging. Those who are interested in this field must understand this and be prepared for the reality of working with families who do not have the resources to work through obstacles on their own. Social workers need to earn a Master’s degree to begin working and earn an average of around $45,000 per year. 

No worries though, there are a ton of online social work programs where you can study without having to quit your job. One of the topic programs is Ohio University’s Master in Social Work Online where students can study at their own pace and timeline to accomplish their career goals. 

If you’re interested in learning more, check out these programs: 

4. Children’s Nurse 

Many careers that involve working with children with disabilities are focused on assisting with behavior and mental health, but children’s nurses have the opportunity to work with a wide variety of children, both with physical and mental disabilities. Children’s nurses may assist pediatricians or work in a school or institutional setting to help children and their parents manage health issues. 

Nursing is a versatile profession, and there are programs ranging from certifications to a Master’s degree. Higher-level degrees tend to command higher salaries. The overall average salary for a children’s nurse in the United States is about $37,00-83,00 annually. 

Similar to social work, nurses interested in moving up in their career can do so without having to quit work by entering an online MSN program. 

Interested in learning more about an online MSN education? Then check out Norwich University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing programwhich has all the information you need! 

Get the Education You Need to Make a Difference

It’s never been easier to get the education you need to make a difference in children’s lives. With flexible online programs, almost anyone can advance their education to help children. It’s a noble calling that’s needed in all areas of the country!

Friday, 2 November 2018

An Educator’s Guide for Helping Students and Parents End Bullying By Anna Andersen, guest writer for Ability Online

Bullying has always been a problem in schools all over the world. With the emergence of cyberbullying, the problem has become even worse and can extend outside the walls of the school. Children can be very cruel to one another, and the harassment that sometimes even includes physical violence can leave a lasting negative impact on kids who are regularly bullied. 

Intervening in bullying situations is important, but it can be difficult to know how to approach the problem. If you’re a teacher worried about the well-being of kids in your care due to bullying, here’s what you need to know about how bullying affects kids and what you can do to end it in your classroom and school. 

Bullying and Mental Health 

Childhood and adolescence are often challenging periods in a person’s life. Kids have to learn an immense number of life skills and get through school while navigating relationships and discovering who they are. It’s a formative period that can have a lasting impact on a students mental healthif negative experiences, like bullying, occur. 

Research has shown that there is a strong link between bullying and mental health, putting bullied children at greater risk for developing psychiatric disorders both during childhood and later in life. Young adults who were bullied as children are more likely to develop anxiety or depression, and bullying can even make victims more likely to commit suicide. A few comments might seem harmless enough, but ridicule and bullying can have lasting negative implications, and it’s not something kids should be left to deal with on their own. 

Why Teachers Need to Step In

When it comes to some issues their students face, teachers shouldn’t necessarily get involved. Kids can often work out minor disputes between friends on their own, while in other situations a parent or school counselor may be a more appropriate resource for a child. When it comes to other issues, like bullying, however, educators need to step in and intervene. This is not only to help end the bullying itself, but to demonstrate what healthy relationships between peers looks like and to teach students to speak up on behalf of others. 

Teachers spend more time with students than anyone but their parents or guardians in most cases. Since many kids don’t report bullyingor even recognize it, educators have a unique opportunity to witness social bullying, which is more likely to take place in front of a teacher than physical bullying. Teachers need to be an advocate and support system for students, intervening as necessary and acting as a role model for appropriate behavior. 

How Teachers Can Help

So how can you intervene in a way that actually stops bullying, rather than just pushing it out of your view? Bullies who are simply punished might just continue their bullying out of educators’ earshot or even online, where it’s harder to detect. 

Your first step should be to get very familiar with your school and school district’s policies on bullying. If your district doesn’t offer resources, talk with your principle and colleagues and discuss a bullying prevention plan to help you educate and support your students while providing appropriate discipline when necessary. 

Set Clear Expectations

It’s also important to establish your classroom as a place of respect. Make it clear that there is no room for any kind of bullying, from physical violence to maliciously leaving someone out. Establishing these ground rules up front will allow you to intervene immediately if you witness bullying and will show students when intervention should occur. Doing activities as a classroom and providing ongoing education on the subject of bullying will help to keep the issue top of mind. 

Involve the Students

Lots of kids have bullied someone and many more have stood by and watched it happen. Empowering your students to regulate one another’s behavior and stand up for their peers can be very effective. 70.6% of students have seen bullying at school, but incidents of bullying stop within 10 seconds 57% of the time when someone speaks up and intervenes. You can’t be everywhere at all times, so you need to clearly teach your students what’s right, what’s wrong, and when they should step in. 

In the end, it’s all about supporting the kids. Listen to them, find out what they need, and work with them to end bullying in your classroom for good. 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

I want to find a job - by Sarah Evans

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about getting a job. I would really like to work. I volunteer doing a number of different things. Although I know my efforts are really appreciated and I enjoy what I do, it feels a bit different than having a job. A part of me would like to be able to support myself because it is something that I am sure I could do.

There are a number of things that I do as volunteer work that I’m sure I could find a job in. I like to write and transcribe. I recently discovered my love of digital scrapbooking, which could be a fun small business.

One of the things that I used to think would be a barrier to working is the fact that sometimes I get tired easily and I have to keep a flexible schedule because of my attendant care. But these days, many people work from home and therefore, can set there own schedules.

A big thing that I feel is a barrier to working is the Ontario Disability Support Program - ODSP. While I really appreciate the financial support from the government, there are restrictions about how much one is allowed to earn before that support would be affected. In addition, the amount of rent I pay is based on my income. I don't know exactly how all this would be affected if I were to earn money, but sometimes it is a difficult to feel motivated when I know I would have to deal with all this red tape.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Finding Motivation

Finding Motivation - By Ability Online Blogger, Sarah Evans

I used to love when it was time to go back to school. I was one of those kids who got bored easily, even though I had fun at summer day camp. Even today, I really miss the excitement of going back to school in September.

I think one of the reasons that I loved going back to school is that it provided structure and challenge.

Working from home, sometimes it is difficult to structure my time. Even when I have things that I want or have to do, I sometimes feel like I only have myself to figure out how to get motivated and if I am on the right track with my work. But recently I reached out to a friend to discuss my frustrations. I realized that I am blessed to have people who support me and can hold me accountable. 

I am also motivated by work that is intellectually stimulating.  I realize that work can't be exciting all the time  - that's not just the way it works. Growing up, I saw people who I considered to have exciting careers.  They always seemed to be involved in so many exciting things.  I wanted to have an exciting career like them.  I don't know what this means or looks like for me. I have to take into account personal factors like my disability and energy level.  Still, I have heard that people who are in my generation can expect to change careers a number of times, so I am hopeful about what opportunities I may have in the future. In the meantime,  I try to enjoy what I am doing in the present. 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Advice to my Mother by Sarah Evans

I was blessed growing up. I was very close to my mother and always felt extremely loved and nurtured. This is not to say that I agree with all of the choices she made. One piece of advice that I would give to my mother and other people with disabilities is to not be too overprotective. 

My mother encouraged me to try many new opportunities, but she over protected me when it came to issues and problems that were going on in our family. My sister, who is two years older than I am, was not overprotected in the same way that I was. It was about not telling me what was going on. I am sure my mom had her reasons. She believed I had enough to worry about related to my disability. She thought I would obsess about issues - yes, I tend to do this quite a bit.

But I believe this experience left me ill prepared to deal with challenges in my later life. I had unrealistic expectations in relationships and in life in general. I believed that I could magically make everything wonderful and great and problems would never come. But, of course, they did come. And because I had no coping skills, I would get really upset and be unable to control myself. I struggled with serious mental heath challenges for a number of years. I am not saying that the only reason for this was that I was overprotected as a child, but I do believe it was a factor.

Disclosing anything to kids or letting them try new things requires wisdom and knowing the individual. But a lot of people mistakenly believe that kids with disabilities need to be protected physically or emotionally from the world around them because they have their own problems to deal with. But kids with disabilities turn into adults and, just like other kids, need to be as prepared as possible to deal with the world around them.

Friday, 22 June 2018

People in Motion 2018 by Sarah Evans

Last weekend was the annual People in Motion show in Toronto. This large exhibition for people with disabilities was held at a new venue this year, Variety Village, a sports and life skills facility.

Overall, I liked the change of venue. The displays in the main area were a bit closer together but there was still plenty of room to move around and everything was easy to get to. 

Volunteering at the Ability Online display, I met a lot of people, including a few people who said they were members at the beginning of Ability Online. This year, we shared our booth with Pathways for All, a private advocacy business to support children with disabilities in the school system. We spoke to a number of family members of individuals with disabilities who were struggling to receive the services they need and I hope we were at least able to offer them some tips.

Personally, I am always looking for social and recreational opportunities and I did find a few. One therapist is organizing social events for youth with disabilities. Although I am too old for these, maybe there is some way that I can help or help to get something else started. Another display that I was inspired by is ParaSport Ontario. Earlier this year I started playing tennis and would consider trying another sport.

Friday, 8 June 2018

May I have a straw in my drink please? By Sarah Evans

Lately I have been hearing a lot about cities thinking about banning plastic straws. The reasons they want to do this are commendable: plastic straws are bad for the environment because they don't easily decompose. As well, this issue heated up because of an online video that went viral of researchers pulling a plastic straw out of the nostril of a turtle.

But for people with disabilities like myself, plastic straws are as essential as the cup itself. I have used straws for as long as I can remember and I know that I am not the only one. On Facebook, I have seen the posts of friends with disabilities who need to use straws and are concerned.

My family and friends have bought me those plastic cups with a large reusable straw. Unfortunately, I find that it is difficult for me to get my lips around these big straws. Also, one time I accidentally bit off part of the plastic, which scared me.

While I am all for being environmentally friendly and helping animals, I question whether a complete ban on straws is the way to go. I think that educating people about the issues and concerns is the right thing to do, but ultimately I think that it should be left up to the person whether or not they want to use a plastic straw.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Disability and my Faith by Sarah Evans

A few years ago, I was out in my community when I came across a group of Christian evangelists. As soon as they saw that I was in a wheelchair, they immediately said something to the effect of, "We'll pray for God to heal you."  Unfortunately, this kind of experience is not unique (I have heard other people with disabilities tell me of similar experiences). It was not their faith that turned me off. I have been a Christian my whole life. But like many other people, whether or not they have a faith or spirituality, these individuals assumed as soon as they saw me that my greatest need to make my life better was the ability to walk (or getting rid of my disability altogether).

Many people with disabilities and their families are part of religious, faith and spiritual communities. Although often well-meaning, a lack of education about disabilities can create barriers in these communities.

Attitude is one such barrier, like the individuals I met on the street. They noticed my disability and my wheelchair before they noticed me. Some people believe that any type of disability or illness is a punishment from God for something that the individual or a close relative did. Instead of being received with one of these harmful attitudes, people with disabilities and their families have to be seen as people first with unique gifts and needs. We can't tell just by looking at a person what they need. 

Another type of barrier is physical.  I was quite fortunate because the churches that I have attended have mostly been physically accessible,  but sometimes smaller groups within the church are hosted in people's homes which are not accessible and transportation to and from people's houses can be challenging when the bus may drop you off very early or pick you up really late. 

Recently, I saw presentations about theology and disability.  It is encouraging to know that other people are thinking about this important issue and I hope that this will be the beginning of a larger discussion that will make such communities more inclusive for people with all abilities.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Be Inclusive by Krystian Shaw

The Be inclusive Movement and Inclusion.

For people that haven't heard it is #beinclusive awareness day on June 1st where people are encouraged to wear blue shirts for inclusion of everyone. No matter your skin color, your gender or who you love and if you have a disability or not, this movement is for the purpose of raising awareness in society about not excluding anyone and to stomp out bullying forever.

Being excluded even by adults is another form of bullying.

This movement came about when Lynda Honing and her daughter, Isabelle was slighted when she said hi. So her mom Lynda came up with an idea to start this new movement. Her hope is for it to spread around the world. 

I love this new movement because it’s positive and very Inspiring and uplifting, especially for those of all abilities. No one should be excluded in society today.

Way to go Lynda and Isabelle for starting this movement.

In Kamloops BC Canada, there is a Funfest run by a day program called Options & Opportunities. Funfest happens every year but this year will be extra special because of this movement. There will be lunch that costs 5 dollars, and the Lunch is a pizza slice, a snack and a pop or juice.  But most things are free. It’s open to the whole community and is held at a park. I will wear a blue shirt on that day, June 1st.  I will also have a booth and play a game about what inclusion means.

Remember June 1st is #beinclusive Awareness day. Please wear blue to show your support that all should be included. For more info go to:

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Andrew Greer, Ability Online intern receives kudos for his film

Media Studies student receives kudos for his film

Andrew Greer, a recent graduate of the Media Studies program at the University of Guelph-Humber, said being able to translate the skills learned in the classroom seamlessly into the workplace during his internship boosted his confidence.

It also made him realize he was qualified to meet the demands of the competitive job market.

Greer received a job placement with Ability Online, a supportive online community for children, teens and young adults with disabilities or health challenges, with the help of U of GH’s Career and Placement Services. During his semester-long internship, Greer was able to handle several tasks: designing posters, creating content for the organization’s website and helping organize events.

“I was initially nervous going into the job,” said Greer, who specialized in digital communications. “But, when I started working, I felt I was prepared. Guelph-Humber gave me a broad range of skills that I could successfully apply in the real world.”
One of Greer’s major projects for Ability Online was creating a four-minute video, “Capable to Unstoppable” featuring Jess Silver, a fitness instructor and trailblazer with cerebral palsy.

The story of Jess Silver
In 2015, Silver founded Flex for Access, an organization whose mandate is to connect people with disabilities find trainers and accessible and integrated gyms.

Ability Online wanted the film to show Silver’s indomitable strength and spirit.

“Ability Online has always focused on promoting the abilities of young people with disabilities; rather than focusing on what they can’t do,” said Michelle McClure, executive director, Ability Online. “What I liked most about working with Andrew on this project was his immediate comfort level around people with disabilities. He knew when to ask for clarification and when it came time to filming, he was professional and efficient. The video truly captured the spirit of the charity, celebrating the accomplishments of young people of all abilities.”

Greer credits the University of Guelph-Humber for equipping him all the necessary tools needed to hit the ground running during his internship.

 “The work that Jess was doing ignited something in me and I realized she had a really fascinating story,” Greer said adding two of his classmates Jouison Coloma and Lucas Morris helped him with the filming portion. “The message I tried to convey in the video was, ‘yes, you can do this’…”

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Tennis Anyone? By Sarah Evans

I recently started playing wheelchair tennis. I found out about this opportunity through the Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association at the Abilities Expo, which came to Toronto in January. It was a godsend and encouraged me to get out into the community and be more active like I used to be. 

l play tennis on Monday evenings at a tennis center in Scarborough that is run by the city. We play in a large bubble, which I like. As the summer is coming, I look forward to playing on outdoor courts. 

The session is two hours each week. We begin by driving around pylons in sort of an obstacle course, which is easy for me because I use an electric wheelchair. Then we practice a series of skills,  which include rallying (that is hitting the ball to each other),  hitting high balls and serving. We usually end by just playing a game. 

I am really enjoying tennis.  I play with a nice little community of people.  Sometimes I get discouraged and think that I am not very good because I miss a lot of balls, but then someone tells me that I did well or that I am getting better and I am reassured and remember to be patient with myself. It has also motivated me to work out and build the muscles in my arms so that I can hit the ball better.

To find out more about wheelchair tennis is the GTA, please visit

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Overcoming Odds and Barriers with Education by Krystian Shaw

I am so excited. I have run my newspaper business for four and half years now. I've been told I have good writing skills, but I still need someone to edit my work. Most of the writing skills I have learned by myself because once I started grade 8, my teachers mainly focused on teaching me life skills. So I am going back to school to improve my skills for my business and career.

The public school district is offering adults from 18 and up to take courses to get there Dogwood diploma. My main focus is to get writing and communication skills so I can learn how to condense my writing. My goal is to say everything I want to say in as little words as possible. And I would like to improve my writing skills so very little if any editing needs to be done in my newsletter articles. For those who don’t know what my newsletter is about, please go to my facebook page at The Kamloops Self Advocate Newsletter/Diverse Abilities.

I am mainly concentrating on English and communication courses, but I will also tackle math and other important skills for my business called the Kamloops Self Advocate Newsletter. I register on April 24th for my schooling, but they gave me literacy tests such as math, English and reading comprehension in the meantime before I registered to know what grade level I am at.

The special education classroom in high school mostly focuses on life skills and work experience and they refused to teach me academics because they thought I couldn't do it.

Look at me now.

I run a business with little support. I want to be more independent, make my messages much shorter for Ability Online, as well as my business. I'm looking forward to improving my skills.

I would like to get my Dogwood which allows people to take university courses, but I don’t need it to reach my goals in life. Although, since I am a go-getter, I still want to keep that as my long-term goal. It’s referred to as street school and it’s free for all adults in the community who don't have their Dogwood and who were not able to graduate from public school.

If you want to upgrade to go to university, you can do that at a university. But they don’t offer you a Dogwood. You just get a grade 12 certificate. At Street School, you write government exams and will receive your grade 12 diploma once you complete all required courses, take the tests and pass.

I am grateful that free programs exist in the community, especially for those who were not offered the same education in school while growing up like me.

The educational system needs to realize, just because we are born with challenges, that doesn’t mean they should assume we are not capable. Give us a chance and push us to as far as we can go. We might surprise them and be capable of learning more than they ever thought we could. I will give an update after I register to let people know what grade level I do have without any formal education when I was young.

Don't "dis" my ability.