It has been a banner year for Michael Neary … starting with his first victory lap after connecting with the Learning Disabilities Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (LDANL).
Michael, the 2018 Hanlon Realty U.S. Legends series champion at Eastbound International Speedway in Avondale, and his family have worked diligently for two seasons to give back to the program that was critical in helping the Grade 12 student at Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. John’s improve on his own learning disabilities.
He was diagnosed with a learning disability in Grade 2. This was something new to his family and they were unsure what steps to take to correct these issues.
His mother, Juliana, said Michael’s teachers alerted them about the LDANL and they quickly set up a meeting. Michael started in their reading program, and completed three years of tutoring — with great success.
He not only improved his reading, but became more confident in his abilities, thus becoming independent as is evident when he was interviewed following his 10-race winning streak at Eastbound International Speedway in Avondale.
His ability to articulate his racing, and the following of the younger drivers at the track, has turned him into a leader — a voice for racing — and also the LDANL.
“The staff had a way to make him feel good about his strengths while coaching him to improve on his weaknesses,’’ Juliana said.
“They made reading fun. In addition to the tutoring program, the LDANL also helped with resources and made sure we had what we needed to ensure Michael was equipped in school to succeed.”
As a family, through the Michael’s prodding, and in support of his racing, he decided he wanted to find a charity he could be associated with to help make a difference in someone else’s life.
He went through the shopping list of the usual suspects that he deemed to be worthy candidates, but in the end he chose the LDANL because of the impact it had on his life.
So, for the second consecutive year, his mother, along with help from members of the family, compiles and prints the day’s race program, and sells them at a table just inside the tunnel at the start/finish line at Eastbound.
This year’s efforts nearly doubled from the inaugural campaign, as sales and a few generous donations garnered $3,024.90, and has them approaching $5,000 in the first two years.
“I can’t say enough about all the help I got and continue to get. I had a great season, but it was special to see Nick Codner (a Bandolero series driver) win his first race. When he got his prize money, he came right down to me and said he wanted to donate it to the LDANL,’’ Michael said.
“It was pretty amazing for him to do that.’’
Other race teams and individuals at the track have played a part in the fundraising as well.
Gavin Anstey, a Legends series driver who competes with Neary, donated on behalf of his construction company. Bursey Excavating, one of the sponsors on cars driven by Wayne Walsh, Chad Lawrence and Jacob Lawrence, paid for the driver feature in the program.
“This is a great way to spread awareness of opportunities to people with learning disabilities, LDANL executive director Edie Dunphy said.
“The potential is immense. We recognize what they have and work around it. The teachers find a way to accommodate the student.”
She said it is important to detect the issue early and then set a plan in place to help the individual in need.
The program has seen a 300 per cent increase in demand since the program started six years ago. There are currently 110 students in both the reading and math programs with waitlists to get into the program.
The program is personalized to the individual student and all sessions are one on one. This allows students with learning disabilities to get the individual programming that is crucial to their success.
The program utilizes a multi-sensory approach that allows for different learning styles, and finds a way that works for the student rather than forcing the student to adapt to a singular style of teaching.
LDANL program background
The Learning Disabilities Association of Newfoundland and Labrador incorporated as a non-profit group in 2001 and acts as the provincial voice for individuals with learning disabilities and those who support them. The LDANL offers programs to build social competence and independence skills. Through awareness-raising activities, workshops and social programs, LDANL hopes to bring a new level of understanding regarding learning disabilities to the public.
The LDANL offers programs to build social competence and independence skills. Through awareness-raising activities, workshops and social programs, LDANL hopes to bring a new level of understanding regarding learning disabilities to the public.
It is the organization’s vision that individuals with learning disabilities be identified and fully accommodated at the earliest opportunity, enabling them to reach their full potential.
Learning disabilities or specific learning disorders are the most common disabilities in Canada. About 1 in 10 people has a learning disability. Currently in Newfoundland, approximately half of the students receiving support services for disabilities (exceptionalities would be the official term) are receiving them for a learning disability.
More information is available online: www.ldanl.ca