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Mapping uncharted waters in childhood education

Graduate Maria Gordon’s new reference book tackles the underexplored topic of teaching children with chronic diseases
November 16, 2015
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By Isaac Olson

It’s not unusual for Concordia undergraduates to take on part-time work while climbing the academic ladder. Yet for Maria Gordon, BA (applied human sci.) 99, MA (ed. studies) 04, her time as a Montreal Children’s Hospital researcher paid a lot more than pocket change.

Maria Gordon Maria Gordon, a certified natural health consultant and licensed naturotherapist, is a professional member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Psychological Association and executive vice-president of the Shamiso Foundation. Photo: Lucy Baum Montreal Photography

The job sculpted a lifelong passion for a largely ignored topic — the impact chronic illness has on a child’s education. After coordinating a project at the hospital on that very area, Gordon eventually wrote both her master’s and doctoral theses on the subject.

Gordon says the academic advisors she had in Concordia’s graduate program in educational studies and while pursuing her PhD in psychopedagogy at the University of Ottawa helped her wade through uncharted waters. The subject had never really been documented or studied before.

“They were very brave to go on that journey with me,” she says.

Gordon earned her PhD in 2013. About a year later, the international publishing company IGI Global recognized her expertise and offered her the task of writing a reference book.

Challenges Surrounding the Education of Children with Chronic Diseases Maria Gordon’s reference book Challenges Surrounding the Education of Children with Chronic Diseases was published in October by IGI Global.

After more than a year of careful study and collaborating with specialists around the world, Gordon’s book, Challenges Surrounding the Education of Children with Chronic Diseases, will be published in October and made available to parents, academics, educators and doctors.

“It was a unique project in a few ways. It had 24 contributors coming from eight different countries talking about a topic that no one is really writing about,” Gordon says.

“Normally when you think about children with special needs, you tend to think about the conditions that you can see, such as physical disabilities. But rarely do we think about sick children with cancer, diabetes, Crohn’s or ulcerated colitis,” she says.

“These types of chronic diseases do impact kids and their life at school.”

Gordon, a Montreal native, has been a readaptation officer at Voyageur Memorial Elementary School on a Cree reserve in Mistissini, Que., since 2014. She is also a certified natural health consultant and licensed naturotherapist.

She explains that children may look fine on the outside but may be suffering on the inside, and that suffering often transfers to their academic performance. Teachers often have trouble understanding the constant absences and the impact illnesses have on a student’s ability to focus, study and complete assignments.

“It’s harder to advocate for services for someone who looks alright even if he or she is not,” says Gordon.

“Now that we are seeing more inclusive classrooms and more diverse populations at school, we have to, at some point, acknowledge all of these differences. It’s time for people to start thinking about special needs as more than just physical.”

Parents, academics, educators, doctors and others interested in finding out more information about or ordering Challenges Surrounding the Education of Children with Chronic Diseases by Maria Gordon can visit the IGI Global website.

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