Olivia Griffioen, MA, who has been in Fernie for approximately one year, has established her registered psychology practice, specializing in learning disorders and intellectual disorders including ADHD and giftedness. She is currently working from spaces throughout the Elk Valley and Cranbrook, and is coordinating with area physicians. Educated in Nova Scotia, Griffioen is happy to be practicing in the East Kootenays, helping children and adults with learning disabilities.
“I grew up in Ontario and attended school in Halifax,” she said. “I went to Dalhousie University. I also attended a smaller university called Mount Saint Vincent where I completed a Master of Arts in School Psychology. A lot of my training happened across provinces, both in Nova Scotia, I worked in some private schools, and then I had an internship and some work experience in Ontario and ended up getting a position in Strathmore Alberta. It was a really cool experience because I was being trained by some of the experts in the field of school psychology.”
Griffioen wrote her licensing exams in Alberta and became a registered psychologist working in private practice. Her motivation for entering the field of school psychology was growing up with a sister with cerebral palsy, and seeing her mother take an advocacy role.
“I can remember as a kid, seeing my mom find supports for my sister at school and have her integrated in the classroom, or getting her the experience of learning some life skills that would be useful for life out of high school,” she explained. “I can remember a lot of passion from my mom, and I think that stirred something in me, and I thought, okay, this is something really important to me is making sure that all kids have an opportunity to learn and experience success.”
Griffioen has definitive thoughts about ADHD, one of her areas of specialization.
“It’s a term that gets thrown around,” she said.
“True ADHD is really a brain-based difference in how your brain is filtering information, and then being able to organize it in a way that you can become productive and manage multiple things in your environment at once. I think there’s a lot more research these days that has helped practitioners to identify ADHD. But I think it’s easy to just throw that term out there without having a full assessment.”
Griffioen said that getting a proper diagnosis is about getting the complete picture.
“What are we seeing in terms of their behaviour? Is it across settings? How much is it impacting them?” she said. “I think the rates of learning disorders is about 10 to 15 per cent of the population.”
Griffioen is enjoying the process of integrating into the community.
“There’s really a desire among all the practitioners to work together,” she explained. “I’ve been getting to know our physicians in town and pediatricians in Cranbrook, the school division. In my private practice right now I am able to offer those diagnostic assessments for learning related conditions, learning disabilities, ADHD, or those intellectual and developmental disabilities. Why they are really valuable is that they give a totally unique perspective on how people learn. When the teachers and parents and physicians and medical professionals are setting up a plan to support a child, they know what’s going to work and what areas they might need to put in some support. You’re not guessing as much about what a student needs in order to be successful.”