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October is both Learning Disabilities Awareness Month and an ADHD Awareness Month.  According to Statistics Canada, more than half (59.8%) of all the children with disabilities in this country have a learning disability, 3.2% of all Canadian children have a learning disability – that’s roughly one child in every class. Many a time kids with Learning Disability or ADHD are discounted by the teachers and educators, and not much is expected of them. That’s why i decided to put together this list of disabled individuals who were absolutely extraordinary.

  1. Terry FoxTerry Fox: A true Canadian icon, Winnipeg native Terry Fox is synonymous with determination and courage. After having lost a leg to cancer, he set out on a cross-country marathon to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. He was forced to quit 143 days into his run, and soon after lost his battle, he stands today as a pillar of hope and determination that all Canadians can look up to.
  2. Helen Keller: Though blind and deaf, Helen Keller went on to become an activist, author and lecturer, due in no small part to the efforts of her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Ms. Sullivan taught her how to communicate during a time when such profound disabilities were seen to be insurmountable. She founded the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) in 1920, and traveled to over thirty-nine countries during her life, making friends with such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Graham Bell and Mark Twain.
  3. Stephen Hawking: a British Theoretical Physicist, Stephen Hawking developed a form of ALS, motor neuron disease, at the age of twenty one. Doctors gave him a prognosis of two to three years, but he has gone on to marry twice, father three children, write a bestselling book (A Brief History of Time), and has won several awards. He is recognized as one of the most intelligent men on the planet, even though as of 2009 he is completely paralyzed.
  4. Ludwig van Beethoven
    Thirteen year old Beethoven

    Ludwig Van Beethoven: It is common knowledge that Beethoven was hearing impaired. In his day, this alone would have been enough to discredit his work, but he went on to become one of the most revered and respected composers in all of He began losing his hearing in his twenties, but composed some of his greatest works when he was for all intents and purposes, completely deaf.

  5. Vincent Van Gogh: The Dutch Painter suffered from severe mental illness and depression, which worsened over time. His story did not unfold nor end well; though he was a prolific artist and painter, and some of his paintings are the most valuable in the art world today, one selling for $82.5 million. He sold no more than two works (out of more than nine hundred to his credit) prior to his death, spent some time in a psychiatric hospital, and at the age of thirty-seven he shot himself in the chest.
  6. Frida Kahlo: Afflicted by polio when she was just a child, Frida also suffered with spinal bifida, which likely affected her spine and leg development. She became a renowned Mexican painter, many of her works self-portraits that depicted her pain and suffering. The polio had left one of her legs greatly weakened and atrophied, which she hid with long skirts. She was prone to long bouts of extreme pain that would leave her unable to walk for months at a time, yet she continued to produce works that are world-renowned and instantly recognizable for her style and use of vibrant colour.

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Many view the Canada Pension Plan as something for the "later years", what many don't realize is that part of the CPP is the disability benefit, and that big percentage of the claims are from individuals in their 30s and 40s as a result of an accident. That's why its important that you know and understand this valuable safety net program.

If you are a disabled person in Canada, there are many resources available to you at both the provincial and the federal level. If you suddenly find yourself unable to work due to a long-term or permanent disability, you could be eligible to access the pension you have been paying into throughout your working life. If you have been employed, your CPP contributions have been deducted from your paycheques. If you are self-employed, your contribution is included in the taxes you pay – either way, it’s based on your income, so the longer you’ve been in the work force, the higher it’s going to be.

The basic federal disability benefit is $453.52, and is a fixed amount for all recipients. Your CPP contributions are what will make up the difference in what they will pay you. The total amount you will receive will be somewhere between the minimum of $841.95 and a maximum of $1212.90. If the disabled applicant has a dependent child, the child may be eligible to receive an additional monthly amount of $228.66.

Apply for the CPP disability benefit as soon as you know that a disability is of issue. The date your application is received will be the date your benefits are prorated to, so it is definitely advantageous to apply as soon as possible. The requirements state that you must be under sixty-five years of age, and you must meet the definition of a ‘severe and prolonged’ or terminal medical condition. Conditions that would apply under these circumstances are:

  • Late stage cancers
  • Cancer that has a terminal prognosis
  • Severe head injuries
  • Any mental or physical disabilities that prevent you from working in any significant capacity

In defining ‘prolonged’, at least for the purposes of this program, it will be determined that the disability is expected to last indefinitely, or for an extended period of not less than one year, or is likely to result in the eventual death of the applicant. Your doctor must complete the medical portion of the application, which will be assessed by the program’s adjudicators, who will consider several factors when reviewing your condition. These factors include:

  • The nature of your medical condition as well as the severity
  • The impact of your condition on your ability to work
  • The impact of treatment on your ability to work
  • Your long-term prognosis
  • Age, work history, education and other personal details that may be a factor
  • Your income, productivity and your overall work performance

The adjudicators are qualified health care professionals, including nurses who have extensive knowledge in CPP legislation, and are supported by physicians and specialists who provide expert advice on complex medical issues. Some other things to note about the CPP Disability benefit program:

  • You may still be eligible to receive benefits even if you are already receiving disability benefits from another source, insurance or otherwise. The amount may be adjusted for this reason, but it does not disqualify you
  • You must be under the age of 65 and not yet receiving your Canada Pension benefits, or have been receiving them for less than fifteen months.
  • You meet the contribution requirements

For further information on how to apply for the CPP Disability Benefit, visit the service Canada website.

For those who live with disabilities every day, the Canadian Disability Tax Credit is something to consider. Available to disabled persons as well as supporting family members and full time caregivers, it can be very helpful in offsetting the often-prohibitive costs of daily care. Rather than a regular monthly payment, such as would be received through OSDB or the Canada Pension Plan, this credit is applied against income tax, and when first approved for can be received as a lump sum payment that covers up to ten years retroactively.

The credit amounts to approximately $1165 per year, with an additional supplement of $680 for those under the age of eighteen. It differs from other provincial and federal tax credits commonly filed with a return in that it must be applied for prior to filing, and cannot be claimed until it has been approved by the CRA. Statistically, almost ninety percent of eligible applications are approved, and most candidates will receive their decision within eight weeks.

Offered to those whose disabilities are expected to last or has lasted twelve months or more, the Disability Tax Credit applies to those with physical and/or mental disabilities that have resulted in a marked and severe loss of the ability to perform normal, daily functions such as walking and talking, or for those with severe visual or hearing impairment.

Disabilities that fall into this category could include the following

  • chronic pain disorders
  • paraplegia
  • quadriplegic paralysis
  • hearing loss
  • debilitating mental disorders
  • etc…

In short any condition that gets in the way of performing simple daily tasks such as dressing or feeding oneself, taking medications or using the toilet may qualify. The degree of impairment is considered as well, and is defined as either markedly restricted or significantly restricted. In the case of ‘marked’ restriction, it is assumed that an inordinate amount of time is required to perform basic daily living activities at least ninety percent of the time, or that the disabled person cannot perform these tasks on their own. ‘Significant’ restriction implies that the applicant may not quite meet the definition of ‘marked restriction’ but is still substantially restricted most of the time.

The application form contains a self-assessment quiz that can help determine which category the applicant falls into, and should be completed by anyone who is considering applying for benefits under this program. But one thing you should keep in mind, even if you feel that you might not qualify, you should consider approaching one of the companies from the Association of Canadian Disability Benefit Professionals, National Benefit Authority the Company I founded, is the original founding member of this Association.

The application is in two parts, and it is necessary for a qualified physician to complete and sign the medical portion. Though the process may seem daunting, it is well worth the effort for those suffering with long-term issues. In fact, it is a requirement for certain other disability benefits, including the RDSP (registered disability savings plans), Canada Disability Savings Grants and Disability Bonds.

Those who receive ODSP or disability payments through the Canada Pension Plan, Quebec Pension Plan or WSIB (workman’s compensation) are not necessarily entitled to receive a Disability Tax Credit, as these programs all have differing criteria, such as the individuals ability or inability to work. The application is available as a printable PDF download or a form-fillable PDF which can be completed on line, and is also available in braille, large print and even MP3 audio for the visually impaired. Access the Disability Tax Credit application anytime by visiting the CRA website.

Consider Applying yourself, but if you feel the need to have a helping hand of a professional you are always welcome to use our free consultation service by National Benefit Authority.

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The decision to purchase life insurance could be the single most important choice you make with regard to your financial security. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that your needs will be taken care of throughout the duration of your life is priceless, and being able to leave something behind for your loved ones assures that they will be cared for in your absence. Of even greater importance is making sure you are purchasing the right type of insurance, and that your policy covers your needs. Here are some important points to consider:

  1. Why are you purchasing life insurance? Most are hoping to assure the financial security of loved ones, or looking for coverage to fulfill debt obligation and costs associated with final arrangements and estate costs. Additionally, life insurance is often required when negotiating a mortgage, or as part of a business partnership agreement. All of these factors will contribute to how your policy is structured.
  2. How much life insurance coverage do you need? Know how much is enough to provide for your family in case the unthinkable occurs. Tax considerations, outstanding debt, mortgages, estate costs, and the level of income you want to leave to your loved ones should all be taken into account. Your financial advisor can help you to break down and identify your needs over the long term.
  3. How much can you afford? Life insurance requires that you renew on an annual basis, and is generally paid monthly. Average budget for life insurance ranges from five to ten percent of ones annual income, but depending on what type of coverage is chosen, premiums can change dramatically, especially at the end of term. Plan to have a little financial cushion to allow for premium changes over time.
  4. What type of life insurance is right for you? Term or permanent life insurance are the two main types. The purpose of term life insurance is for support in the short-term, and premiums increase as you age. Permanent life insurance provides lifetime coverage and can include additional benefits. The premiums for permanent coverage do not increase over time, and so may be more affordable in the long run. There are also hybrid plans that combine aspects of both term and permanent life insurance.
  5. Need more flexibility? Insurance riders serve to customize your policy, providing coverage that is specific to your individual needs. Riders can provide the insured with a Plan B to assure peace of mind in case of unforeseen events. Examples of common riders are waiver of premium, which covers your payments in the event you are unable to work due to a critical injury, or guaranteed insurability, which allows the insured to purchase additional insurance at a later date, without being obliged to undergo further medical. Other riders include critical illness, accidental death, child protection, return of premium, and accelerated death.

There is no cookie-cutter answer to what the ‘right policy’ is, as needs differ greatly from person to person, and it is never too soon to consider getting started. Prepare for the unexpected, and give yourself some peace of mind, knowing that you and your loved ones are taken care of in any event. Consult your financial advisor today to discuss your options.

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Dr Benjamin Burko, our resident pediatrician, assistant professor of pediatrics at McGillUniversity and Medical Director of the Tiny Tots Medical Centre talks about Summer Prevention!

Everything you need to know to keep your kids safe outdoors this summer – from West Nilevirus, to swimmer’s ear and avoiding food poisoning, Dr Burko has easy tips and practical advice for parents.

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Lianne Castelino of is interviewed live, in-studio on The Lynne Russell Show on NewsTalk 1010 on June 5, 2010.

Lynne and Lianne talk about how to keep the kids occupied in the summer, cost-effective summer fun, parenting tips and advice, working in a male-dominated field so much more!

A former anchor on CNN Headlines News, Lynne hosts a weekly show, Saturdays from 1-3pm on NewsTalk 1010.

Learn more about Lynne:


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Cyberbullying Special

Cathy Wing
Co-Executive Director, Media Awareness Network

Cyberbullying Special

Bill Belsey

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Teaching Kids Empathy

Mary Gordon
Author, Educator

Parenting at Work

Aimee Israel
CEO Life Speak

9-year-old on the Subway?

Lenore Skenazy
Newspaper Columnist


Jen Singer
Author, Mom