To begin with, I would like to talk about my background, rationale and the reasons behind the choice of the topic.
I am a LINC Hybrid (Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada) Instructor at NorQuest College, Edmonton, AB.
A LINC program is a government funded program for refugees and newcomers to Canada. The LINC Hybrid program is targeting refugees and immigrants who cannot be in school full-time, but still have a flexible opportunity to learn the language asynchronously. To join the program, the students require a language assessment proof from accredited agencies, their valid refugee or PR status proof, and number of years of their education in a home country (those are not required to be formally confirmed).
The institution I am working for (NorQuest College, Edmonton, AB) has always been striving for the development of more successful instruction delivery models aiming to satisfy students’ needs in the first place.
There are two reasons why I think my project is a good investment.
First, working on a group project (‘Neuroscience’) in this course, I have discovered the model of learning success for refugees and immigrants having learning disabilities. Once given a foundational start, it could be applied to any educational field or/learners’ level later.
Second, having been teaching refugees and immigrants for quite a while (since 2013), I have been feeling helpless when it came to be diagnosed (or more often undiagnosed) learning disabilities because as many other instructors, I lack expertise in this area.
While being a university student, I was taught to teach an ‘average’ student, not a student with a certain disability (supposedly provided with the teacher’s aides; not for LINC, though). So, with the time, I felt that if I had the knowledge and expertise, I would have helped those refugees and immigrants a lot more in addressing their ‘problem’ areas of language acquisition as well as settlement.
The ultimate goal of LINC instructors and service providing agencies is the assistance in settlement and making refugees and newcomers’ to Canada life beneficial both ways: helping them to ‘resettle’ (I think it’s a better definition of ‘settle in a new country’) and benefiting the country of ‘resettlement’ being a committed and devoted citizen (in the long run) of the country they want to build their new life in (Canada). I do believe that it is a hard, but a manageable objective.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that between 3.5 and 5 million of the world’s refugees and displaced persons in emergency shelters or refugee camps have disabilities, one third of them being children (Battle, D. E. 2015).
‘In addition to the stressful nature of the resettlement process, refugees may also suffer from mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), psychosomatic disorders, eating disorders and substance abuse’ (Parsons 2005 &Miller &Rasco 2008).
All these conditions are quite often undiagnosed and not being addressed when the students join LINC program. There is no statistical data or research on how many Canadian refugees require or acquired any mental health or learning disability diagnoses in their home country. Sadly enough, there are a few valid reasons for that: a stigma about mental health and disabilities (mental health particularly) in general in their home country, and the lack of funding from the Canadian government to diagnose and address these conditions when they enter Canada with a refugee status. According to Shannon et al., (2015) research, the reasons why it is difficult to discuss mental health include ‘a history of political repression, fear, the belief that talking does not help, lack of knowledge about mental health, avoidance of symptoms, shame, and culture’.
I strongly believe that neuropsychological knowledge is essential for developing successful teaching and learning strategies, especially for refuges and newcomers to Canada.
Many neurologists and some educators have recognized the importance of neurological knowledge for education for more than 70 years.
Undoubtedly, there are a lot of people who would deny the link of learning disabilities to neurophysiological dysfunction. However, they will have to admit and accept the clinical findings in this area. Gaddes W. H (1985) described a lot of useful clinical findings about the links between neuroscience and learning disabilities in his works but there are no practical resources or instructional scheme or resources for the instructors and other service providers assisting refugees in programs like LINC.
What can be done in this area to educate a service provider – an instructor/ a teacher/ an educator? New methods and strategies need to be created for an instructor/ a teacher/ an educator to assist the learner (of any age) aiming at most beneficial teaching / learning strategies for a student. The answer and undeveloped area of neuroeducation needs to be explored.
Lastly, I think this is the right time for a new kind of an educator – a newroeducator. New approach and methods of assisting the mentioned above category of students need to be implemented in the times of educational technology we are living now.
Battle, D. E. (2015). Persons with communication disabilities in natural disasters, war, and/or conflict. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 36(4), 231-240. doi:10.1177/1525740114545980
Gaddes, W. H., SpringerLINK eBooks – English/International Collection (Archive), & SpringerLink (Online service). (1985). Learning disabilities and brain function A neuropsychological approach (Second ed.). New York, NY: Springer New York. doi:10.1007/978-1-4757-1864-5
Miller, K. E., & Rasco, L. M. (2004). An ecological framework for addressing the mental health needs of refugee communities. In The mental health of refugees (pp. 13-76). Routledge.
Parsons, L. (2005). Refugee Resettlement in New Zealand and Canada. Report prepared for RMS Refugee Resettlement.
Shannon, P. J., Wieling, E., Simmelink-McCleary, J., & Becher, E. (2015). Beyond stigmas: Barriers to discussing mental health in refugee populations. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 20(3), 281-296. doi:10.1080/15325024.2014.934629