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22 Mar, Wednesday
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Montreal Families

New programs for teens with special needs

Adolescence is tough on both teenagers and their parents. But when a young person also has a learning disorder, a language difficulty (for example, stuttering) or problems handling social situations, this period of life can be even more challenging. Finding help can also be hard as working with teens requires patience, tact and an ability to gain their trust while respecting their need for independence.

At the non-profit Montreal Fluency Centre, known for its pioneering work in helping children who stutter, teens can receive sensitive, age-appropriate help in several different areas including stuttering, tutoring, social skills and educational assessments.

Adolescent Stuttering Program

Dr. Rosalee Shenker, the founding director and stuttering specialist, works with teens aged 12 to 17 who struggle with stuttering. The program begins with a 12-hour intensive session done over two days. This is followed by an additional 12 hours of treatment spaced over six to 12 weeks. The students can work in pairs and intensive workshops are scheduled frequently through the year. After the intensive workshop, the students apply what they have learned to real life situations, such as public speaking, talking on the phone and talking to strangers.

The program takes into account the needs, fears and concerns of teens. “We don’t want these kids to see their therapy as punishment. We want to empower them,” says Shenker, who set up the program to be short and effective. Teens are encouraged to develop their own realistic goals rather than have a therapist decide for them and parents are encouraged to participate.

Remedial Tutoring Service

The centre is also home to the Taylor Adolescent Program, which is a remedial tutoring service for teens with moderate to severe learning disorders. This program, which has successfully tutored adolescents at high risk for school failure for more than 30 years, is overseen by its founder and director, Dr. Rene Stevens and Dr. Marlene Desjardins, a psychologist, and is held two afternoons a week. Students are paired with a tutor and they learn a variety of strategies to help them develop their strengths and overcome specific weaknesses in their learning. The centre also offers after-school tutoring services to younger children who have been followed by speech pathologists at the centre and no longer need individual speech therapy. By grades 10 or 11, many of these students are working independently (meaning they don’t need the tutoring anymore) and are ready for post-secondary studies.

Educational Assessments

Teens who are struggling at school can receive an educational assessment through the Fluency Centre. The assessment helps pinpoint how a teen learns and what he or she might need in terms of services or resources.

The Montreal Fluency Centre is located 4626 Ste. Catherine St. W., in Westmount. Fees are charged for services but there is a bursary program. For more information, call (514) 489-4320 or visit www.montrealfluency.com.

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