New clinic to support mental health in kids.

The numbers aren’t pretty, but the future may be brighter for families with children experiencing learning or mental-health issues, thanks to a new initiative led by Western Education.

According to Children’s Mental Health Ontario, as many as 1-in-5 children and youth in the province will experience some form of mental-health problem, with 5-in-6 of those not receiving the treatment they need.

The Child and Youth Development Clinic hopes to fill that gap by welcoming children who are currently without access to the types of services the clinic offers. This week, Western opened the clinic’s doors in the former Bank of Montreal Building, 1163 Richmond St., just outside the Western Gates.

“Every family has a child who, at one time or another, is at risk of learning or mental-health issues,” said Vicki Schwean, Education Dean and the clinic’s founder. “Ensuring the mental health and wellbeing of our next generation is immensely important and we’re thrilled to open the doors to the community at our new clinic.”

The clinic offers services for kids 3-18 years of age with educational, psychological, behavioural and speech and language difficulties – without a doctor’s referral.

Parents, guardians and service providers, such as school officials, mental-health providers and doctors, may refer children and youths to the clinic.

Families may call 519-661-4257 to make an appointment. They will be emailed a package asking them to fill out the child’s or youth’s developmental, medical, social or academic history. This information, along with any reports from previous evaluations and/or school information, will help the clinic plan the most appropriate assessment(s).

Cost is based on a sliding scale based on a parent’s income. No health card is required.

Western graduate students – under the supervision of experts in their field – will provide assessment and treatment options for children with educational, psychological, behavioural and speech and language difficulties either individually or in groups.

The clinic has eight Psychology graduate students and eight Speech and Language students.

As a school and clinical child psychologist, Education professor Colin King has learned a lot working in a variety of hospital, community and private settings with children having various learning, social-emotional and behavioural challenges.

“An interdisciplinary assessment provides families with the most complete profile for their child,” said King, who serves as the clinic’s director.

“It takes a village to raise a child. Once we fully understand a child’s developmental, medical and academic history, we can provide the most informed evidence-based psychological assessment, intervention and treatment.”

Repost from:

Music and its Influence on the Cognitive Abilities of Alzheimer’s Patients

Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease, in which there is a gradual decrease in memory function, intellectual abilities and a change in personality occurs (APA, n.d.).  In the early stages of the disease, patients often lose the ability to remember and retain new information. In later stages they lose the ability to think, speak and do basic tasks such as brushing ones teeth (APA, n.d.). Alzheimer’s has also become the most common and prevalent form of dementia, in adults over the age of 65 (Passer, Smith, Atkinson, Mitchell and Muir, 2011). Currently there are half a million Canadians with the disease, and it is expected to increase to 1.1 million people by 2035 (Passer et. al., 2011). A wide variety of research is currently being conducted on the disease to find a cure, because of the increasing risk the disease poses on individuals psychological, social and physical well being continues to increase. Recent studies have suggested Alzheimer’s patients having a stronger likelihood to remember new information when it is provided in the context of music. These studies support the idea that the memory of Alzheimer’s patients is affected by music, regardless of familiarity and distortion.

Ashley Vanstone and Lola Cuddy examined the notion of whether the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s are able to preserve memories through music. Using 12 patients with Alzheimer’s ranging from moderate to severe, as well as 12 healthy control participants, Vanstone and Cuddy were able to examine the memory of all 24 participants. Throughout the experiment, participants were exposed to familiar songs, and were asked to identify any distortions in the melodies, and were asked to sing along to the familiar songs. In this study, a Familiarity Decision Test (FDT) was designed containing 10 familiar melodies and 10 novel melodies, participants were asked to determine whether the song was familiar or not. All participants were prompted to sing the melodies of four familiar tunes using the first phrase of the four songs. The rendition of the melody was deemed correct when the rhythm and general melodic contour was deemed recognizable. Thus, the basic goal of the task was to determine whether the participant could produce the tune in an accurate manner during the experiment.  The second category, the novel songs, was created using distorted melodies. This was created through reversal of the sequence of pitches making them unrecognizable. The second method of testing involved the use of a “distorted tunes test”, which required participants to assess and identify incorrect pitches of 26 short familiar melodies (Vanstone and Cuddy, 2009). This portion of the experiment was measured on whether the participant deemed the melody correct or incorrect and whether or not the melody was familiar to create a distorted tunes test recognition score (DTTREC). Another method used in the experiment, involved the use of an Unfamiliar Distorted Tunes Test (UDDT), which Vanstone formed as an analogue to the DDT test (Vanstone and Cuddy, 2009). This method involved using unfamiliar tunes prompting the participant to specify whether or not the melody was distorted. Twenty brief novel melodies were created, 10, which followed Western stylistic norms while the other 10 songs, contained pitch distortions. Through this experiment, the participant was given a starting pitch as a reference point, as well as two trials to give an example of what a distorted novel song sounded like. The entire experiment was presented in the form of the FDT test, the lyrics prompt test, the DDT test and the UDTT test (Vanstone and Cuddy, 2009).

Nicholas Simmons-Stern, Andrew Budson and Brandon Ally focused their study on trying to enhance the memory of Alzheimer’s patients to learn new information. The experimental design included testing their memories using lyrics of children’s songs with repetitive melodies. The study also included the use of lyrics placed on computer screens, as well as using 13 patients with Alzheimer’s and 14 healthy control participants with no familial history for comparison. During the study, participants were tested using two mechanisms: having the lyrics read to them and having the lyrics sung with musical accompaniment. . The stimuli used in the study consisted of using four line excerpts from a group of 80 children’s songs from children’s music databases. All songs selected for the study were subjected to a prescreening test to insure all songs were simple, had repetitive melodies and were unfamiliar to participating patients. However, the four lines from the excerpted song also had to include a “perfect tail rhyme scheme” (Simmons- Stern, Budson and Ally, 2010). The stimuli were further broken down into sung and spoken versions of each song, both of which had the same vocal speeds for the corresponding songs. For more concise examination the songs were broken down into four categories, which consisted of: total words, sung recording length, spoken recording length and expected years of education necessary for text comprehension. Each participant was presented with 40 song excerpts, and the four line lyrics were present on a laptop for the entire session. The session was then further broken down into 20 songs presented with musical accompaniments and the other 20 being spoken version of the songs. Each song used during the sessions was repeated twice in consecutive order. The results of the study were then used to evaluate the differences in memory performance during the sung and spoken conditions when comparing the control group and Alzheimer’s group (Simmons-Stern, et. al., 2010).

The two journals studied the common area of determining what the extent music plays in enhancing memories in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Vanstone and Cuddy’s experiment saw a range of musical memory across the spectrum of Alzheimer’s the participants. Some participants with the moderate or severe form of the disease showed normal abilities with their musical abilities, others showed partial ability to acknowledge familiar tunes and perform some tasks.   In some cases, the participant did not meet the normal levels despite engaging in the tasks. Overall, the data collected showed that the Alzheimer’s participants performed significantly lower in comparison to the control group. However, when the researchers examined individual cases of the participants, it became evident that there was a high degree of variability in musical memory functioning.  Lastly, the researchers acknowledge that due to the small sample size, the study was not able to determine the degree of preserved musical ability in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The results only conformed to the notion that this phenomenon is most likely not uncommon in the general population. Both journals used similar approaches in terms of engaging the participant with music and examining the melodies of each song. However, major difference stem in the notion that one study allowed for familiar tunes and analyzing distorted melodies, while the second study focused on unfamiliar melodies. The second study also added another variable, using spoken and musical accompaniment as the two manipulated variables for the experiment in testing the same area of interest in Alzheimer’s patient. Overall, Simmons- Stern and his peers focused on whether music could be used to enhance memory, and the extent to which it plays in recognition of verbal information in both groups of patients. However, unlike the first journal, the Simmons- Stern and his colleagues were able to confirm their hypothesis that patient with Alzheimer’s disease performed better on a task using background music in comparison to spoken lyrics without music (2010).  The findings suggest that music involves more diversified encoding that requires use from many different parts of the brain, such as the cerebellum, hypothalamus, and nucleus accumbens, creating a complex and diversified neural network (Simmons- Stern et. al., 2010).  Therefore “music and sung recordings may create a more robust association at encoding than do stimuli accompanied by only a spoken recording” in patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (Simmons- Stern et. al., 2010).  Many of the areas associated in encoding and retrieving information from music are also affected at a slower rate in comparison to areas of the brain normally associated with memory, notably “the cortical areas such as the medial prefrontal cortex and orbitofrontal cortex” (Simmons- Stern et. al., 2010).   They also noted that in the healthy control group, no benefit occurred when music was used suggesting that the encoding and retrieval processes for musical and non- musical processes differ in healthy adults in comparison with Alzheimer’s patients. Overall, in comparison to the first journal, Simmons- Stern and his colleagues gave a stronger insight into the role that music has in patients with Alzheimer’s and why this phenomenon may occur.
Thus, experiments with music and Alzheimer’s patients may lead to further studies to examine how memories may be preserved or retrieved and providing a diagnostic progression for the disease. In conclusion, further studies will need to be conducted in order to formulate a more conclusive relationship between music and memory in Alzheimer’s patients. There is not enough data to thoroughly conclude that the memory of Alzheimer’s patients is consistent when music is added into the equation. However based on the data researched from the two journals, there does seem to potentially be a link between the two variables with the second journal being more supportive of music playing a role in the memory of Alzheimer’s patients. In conclusion, the two journals have given insight into how patients with Alzheimer’s disease can potentially be taught novel information using music to present everyday information and in developing more effective therapy treatments.

– M

Works Cited

Alzheimer’s Disease  . (n.d.). American Psychological Association (APA) .  Retrieved November
23, 2011, from

Passer, M. W., Smith, R. E., Atkinson, M. L., Mitchell, J. B., & Muir, D. W. (2011).  Memory.
Psychology: frontiers and applications (Fourth Canadian Edition ed., p.  300). United States
of America: McGraw- Hill Ryerson.

Simmons-Stern, N. R., Budson, A. E., & Ally, B. A. (2010). Music as a memory enhancer in
patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Neuropsychologia, 48(10), 3164-3167 . Retrieved
November  24, 2011,
from DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.04.033
Vanstone, A. D., & Cuddy, L. L. (2009). Musical memory in Alzheimer disease. Aging,
Neuropsychology, and Cognition
, 17(1), 108-128. Retrieved November 22, 2011, from




Atikokan, Ontario: A Rural Community Health Assessment

History of Atikokan, Ontario:

Atikokan, Ontario, is located in Northwestern Ontario, approximately 200km west of Thunder Bay (, 2012). The town is often referred to as the canoeing capital of Canada. It is also known for being a safe, and healthy community with a diverse economy, and strong ties to the wilderness. Atikokan was originally established as a rail stop for the Canadian Northern Railway in 1882. The name “Atikokan” is thought to have been derived from the Ojibwa-Chippewa word for “caribou bones” (, 2012) as the town site was at one time the wintering grounds for herds of caribou- where many of them ended up passing away on the lands. The late 1600’s saw the introduction of many Europeans tourists travelling through the area, including Jacques de Noyon, one of the first European settlers to do so. The 1730’s brought along the opening of an interior fur trade and by the 1740’s, French fur traders in the area were well established to compete with the Hudson’s Bay Company (the largest fur trader in North America) (, 2012).  However, by 1821 declining fur catches caused the company and Hudson’s Bay to merge together. In 1883, sawmills were established in the region, with many of the materials providing timber for the development of the mine sites contributing to the towns economic growth.  By 1899, the east-west section of the Canadian National Railway (formerly known as the Canadian Northern Railway) was built through Atikokan as demands for transportation services increased after a number of mines were discovered. Upon hearing of the construction of the railway, many non-aboriginal settlers began to flock towards the area. Along with the settlers, came the development of much of the towns’ infrastructure, including construction of a hotel, general store, and post office (, 2012). In 1940, a small hospital was erected at the Steep Rock Iron Mines Ltd. site approximately 14.5km from Atikokan (, 2012).  Prior to this, hospital and medical services were limited to a small Red Cross outpost that operated from the inside of a train care.

Definition of a Rural Community:

            Essentially, Atikokan is a small town located in the Rainy River District in Northwestern Ontario. As defined in class, there are three things that help when defining a rural community. These factors include the rural area being located outside a population centre, having a population of a least 1,000 people, and having a population density of 400 persons or more per square kilometer. Therefore, one of the reasons it is considered a rural area is due to the fact that it is located outside of a major population centre; the closest being Thunder Bay, Ontario. There would be a very small chance that workers would commute between Atikokan and Thunder Bay, as the travel time would amount to 2.5 hours each way. Thus, the relationship would be considered as being weak when looking at the metropolitan influenced zone (MIZ). Secondly, the population density of Atikokan is 8.7/km2   as per the 2011 National Household Survey (Statistics Canada, 2013). As a result, Atikokan has a population density well below the 400 persons per square kilometer, based on its current census population count. Thirdly, Atikokan has a population of 2,787 people, which is considered a small population centre (Statistics Canada, 2013). In my opinion, I would say that the two strongest factors that would make Atikokan a rural community, is its geographic location and the size of its population.

SWOT Analysis:


o   Strong ties to the wilderness, especially in relation to being an outdoor tourist recreation destination

o   Strong health care sector- ambulance, chiropractic, counseling, dental, hospitals/clinics, optometrist, 41-bed hospital, emergency care, and youth services

o   Diverse economy- based on forestry, government services, retail services, thermal generating station


o   Shrinking population

o   High rates of youth obesity and overweight children

o   High unemployment rate- much of the employment is seasonal


o   Resolute Forest Products to build a new sawmill in the Atikokan area

o   Atikokan General Hospital accepted a grant of $8,487 from the Northern Cancer Fund of the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation

o   Transportation into and out of Atikokan, particularly taking advantage of the Trans Canada Highway


o   Not enough Health care funding from the province/ state of current contract negotiations between province and health care workers

o   Collective agreement representing some health care workers in Atikokan expire in late 2014

o   Downturn in the forestry industry


Similar to many other northern communities rates of obesity are high in Atikokan. A study conducted by the Northwestern Health Unit, located in Atikokan, highlighted two areas as being inadequate, which were physical activity and nutrition (Northwestern Health Unit, 2014). The study found only 0.74 per cent of students claimed to get the recommended daily food servings as set out in the Canada Food Guide (NHU, 2014).  This is quite alarming, considering healthy eating, particularly of fruits and vegetables, is considered one of the key measures in the prevention of chronic disease. Therefore, the health unit in Atikokan, has plans to continue to collect data through to 2016, in hopes that the unit will be able to see whether its target programs to help combat this issue are helping teens make healthier choices (NHU, 2014). The health unit has specific programs such as the creation of apps and more targeted information for youth to use on their website highlighting healthy eating basics, and drug and alcohol use (NHU, 2014). Furthermore, Atikokan has acknowledged the problem of youth obesity and in conjunction with the Heart & Stroke Foundation formed a program called ‘Atikokan Youth Initiatives- Healthy Choices’, which seeks to bring together community partners to plan activities that will bring together all members of the community and get more youth involved in community programming (HSFSpark, n.d.). Together this program seeks to spark discussion, design solutions, and plan activities that aim to see more youth involved in active community programs. In my opinion, this program would be highly beneficial, as it would allow the community to take initiative in addressing and fixing some of the towns health problems. Since it is a subdivision of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Atikokan Youth Initiative program allows the community to have a stronger sense of investment and efficacy, due to the community being able to define the problem and come up with solutions themselves.

Another weakness within the town has been the noted decrease in population. As noted in the 2011 census, Atikokan has experienced a 15.4% decrease in the number of residents residing in the town. As of 2011, 2787 residents lived in the town, compared to 3293 in 2006 (Statistics Canada, 2013). While the population decreased, the median age in the town saw an increase from 43.0 years to 48.5 years.  As the town continues to age, it would be important to have transportation options for those who do not own a car or are not within relative distance to the destination they are aiming to get to. Fortunately for the residents of Atikokan, various forms of transportation offer their services. Although Atikokan does have its own General Hospital, similar to many other rural communities, Atikokan has experienced a decreased amount of health care funding over the years and thereby limiting the amount of services the local general hospital could offer.  Therefore, for patients to have access to more comprehensive and complex health services, they would have to go to larger centre, such as Thunder Bay, to receive care. Luckily, coaches are relatively frequent and cheap for residents to access. Although many complex and expensive treatments are often located in more populated centers, the town has been able to seize an opportunity through the Northern Cancer Fund of the Thunder Bay Regional health Sciences Foundation to fund the purchase of a new chemotherapy treatment chair and a fridge for maintaining and storing the hospitals stock of chemotherapy medications as of October 21, 2014 (Progress, 2014). This is a huge event for a small town such as Atikokan, and I would think many residents would be able to benefit from this grant, as cancer touches the lives of many, and I am sure many residents would be grateful having the chance to be treated close to home.

It has been noted that there are two factors that heavily contribute to the elevated unemployment rates (approximately 8.4%) in the town in comparison to the Ontario (approximately 7%) and Canada unemployment rates (Statistics Canada, 2013). The first factor relates to Atikokan’s reliance on natural resources, which leads to the creation of a number of seasonal opportunities. For example, similar to many other towns across Northern Ontario, many tourist camps close during the winter. Secondly, there is also a lack of marketable skills and knowledge demonstrated by a number of Atikokanites (, n.d.).   Many of the positions in the town that require specific expertise are often filled by people who come from out of town who have the required knowledge and trades. However, Atikokan has a very diverse economy and there are other means for residents to seek employment and capitalize on the towns’ strengths, such as outdoor recreation and natural resources. The once-struggling forestry sector in Northwestern Ontario, and specifically Atikokan, has also received positive news as a new sawmill and economic partnership is to be completed by late 2014 by Resolute Forest Products. Fortunately for the town, the mill will employ about 90 people and add additional indirect jobs related to hauling lumber and residual chips (CBC News, 2013).  Furthermore, the introduction of this partnership will aid in providing economic stability for the towns future, particularly with the company agreeing to supply the Ontario Power Generation plant, a significant employer in the community, with wood pellets for the next 10 years.

Works Cited

Progress. (2014, November 21). Northern cancer fund backs equipment upgrade at AGH. Atikokan Progress and Printing RSS. Retrieved October 20, 2014, from

Atikokan youth initiatives – healthy choices | Spark. (n.d.). Heart and Stroke- Spark. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from

CBCNews. (2013, January 31). Resolute Forest Products to build $50M Atikokan sawmill. CBCnews. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from

CBCNews. (2014, September 30). Unifor rallies in Thunder Bay over health care, contract issues. CBCnews. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from

Community history. (n.d.). Home. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from

Compass survey results 2014. (n.d.). Northwestern Health Unit. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from

Experience Atikokan. (n.d.). Experience Atikokan : Atikokan Economic Development Corporation. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from

NHS profile- Atikokan, 2011. (2013, September 11). Statistics Canada. Retrieved

October 25, 2014, from








Farewell Dear Angel

Yesterday the world truly lost a special person. Normally I wouldn’t write a blog about this, but I truly think the world is a little less bright today. I learned that my friend and fellow peer guide Francis passed away from a brief illness. It honestly feels like a punch to the heart, i feel so sick to my stomach. Like the universe is playing some cruel joke. I can’t imagine what his family would be going through at this time. I send my condolences as we all try to navigate this difficult time. I was lucky to spend time with my peer guide family and sit together and talk about how his warm smile and willingness to help and make a difference in the world will be truly missed.

If you were ever fortunate to come across him on campus you would instantly be captivated by the huge smile he always had on his face. No matter how his day went, he would instantly chat you up as soon as he saw you. He was the first peer guide I ever met 2 years ago and even though I felt kind of left out having missed the full team training he welcomed me with open arms, like we had already been friends for years. It’s going to be so weird going to meetings and not seeing his smile and hearing his voice welcoming everyone and chatting everyone up. He was the type of person who gave you their full attention when you talked to him, something hard to come by these days with people using their phones and laptops. The one person you could count on to volunteer or help out with anything. The impression he has left on so many of his fellow peer guides and his peers has been tremendous. It’s comforting to see people come together to celebrate his life, I know he’s going to be watching down on all of us. As painful as it is to lose someone like that, his passing shows how short life his and that even a simple smile can have a tremendous impact on another person. I’ll miss that and i’ll miss him and bumping into him at random times. I just wish he knew how much of an impression and impact he had on everyone, regardless of whether they knew him personally or not. I’m sure he would be happy knowing how many hearts he touched.

I sometime wonder why God could be so cruel and take someone so good away from the earth, when in reality we need more people like him around. But maybe it’s a blessing, the world isn’t always a good place and he deserves to be somewhere where he is eternally happy, i’m sure he’s going to make a great angel. He has inspired me to strive to be selfless, to not let the little things bother me, and to smile. I just wish I could have had the chance to have known him even longer and get a chance to say one last good bye, it’s devastating that it was all so sudden. It just shows that the good die young. Sometimes I just want to shout up to God and ask why is he doing this. Why is he making everyone that cared about his suffer! I just can’t understand why and I don’t ever think I will. I keep telling myself that God just wanted his angel back, but it’s hard to know that I will never get to say a goodbye or bump into him again. He had so much potential and so much to offer the world, it’s devastating to see him go. It’s just not fair.

But it’s not a goodbye, his physical presence may not be here any more but his spirit will forever be there when ever I volunteer at the International Exchange Student Centre as a peer guide. It’s more of a so long, i’ll see you on the other side my dear friend. I hope you find peace, eternal happiness, and a big screen TV that plays all the soccer games you desire to watch in heaven.

I hope to see you again one day.


– Megan