by: Linda Modenbach, Conference Chair
So many elements came together February 15 -18 for LDA attendees to the International Conference in Orlando, Florida to make it the best conference ever. Florida in February, great keynote speakers, enthusiastic attendees, amazing selection of topics and sessions paired with a super hotel and surrounding fun parks for down time combined for a terrific week. A teacher from Georgia summed up her experience: “My opinion is that this conference is one of the best that I have ever attended in my 20+ years in education. It was as if I finally met with ‘my people.’ Those people who believe in all children and who celebrate the diversity among learners seemed to gather at this conference. It was truly a delightful experience.”
LDA of Florida members were gracious hosts throughout the week. Thank you to co-presidents, Mark Halpert and Cathy Eihorn. The Membership Reception Sunday evening was a good way to start the conference with lots of networking and greeting new and old friends, hooking up with folks from their own state and planning for the upcoming week. Thanks to the Affiliate Support/ Membership Committee and to the generous reception sponsors – Beacon College, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Regional Center for Learning Disabilities, and the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education. LDA President, Allen Broyles and LDA Executive Director, Mary-Clare Reynolds led the Board of Directors, LDA State Affiliates and conference volunteers, speakers and attendees in an exciting week of learning.
The Program Committee put together a week of stimulating sessions for teachers, counselors, parents and adults with learning disabilities. Monday’s keynote session speaker, Lisa Dieker, University of Central Florida, was particularly inspiring. She shared life experiences, her ups and downs and how she thrived in spite of learning disabilities. Her session was generously funded by Landmark School. Another Monday highlight was the Education Workshop, “Looking at Other Ways to Teach the Learning Disabilities Population in the Classroom.” The Exhibit Hall opened on Monday with breakfast and afternoon snacks served throughout the week. The Silent Auction, the LDA book store, the AT Solutions lab, LDA Membership booth and a varied selection of 60+ exhibitors were enjoyed by conference attendees. Parents and teachers alike enjoyed the session “The Art of Self-Advocacy: Helping Children Learn to Help Themselves,” presented by John Willson, SOAR, NC; another Monday favorite was “Behavior Interventions that Make a Positive Difference for Academic Success,” presented by Beverly Johns, MacMurray College, Illinois.
Tuesday ‘s keynote session presented by Doug Fuchs, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University , “Two Reasons Why Many Students with Disabilities are Failing School and Why RTI Hasn’t Helped Them” – was important for parents, advocates, teachers and administrators to hear. There was much discussion stimulated throughout the week by what researcher Fuchs spoke about. The Adult Luncheon speaker, Kayla Wilson, from Augusta, Georgia, spoke on “The Elephant in the Room” – Trying to Hide My LD, but Knowing It Was Always There. Kayla shared her experiences and dedication with a very receptive audience. The 2016 Harrison Sylvester Award, given annually “to a person with learning disabilities who has shown a significant commitment and dedication to adults with learning disabilities and their issues” was presented to Janeen Steel of Los Angeles, California.
Wednesday began with the Sam Kirk Educator of the Year Award presentation to Nancy Hammill from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The Keynote session was given by Donald Deshler, Ph.D. and Sean Smith, Ph.D., both from the University of Kansas. They completely captured the attention of the attendees with their exciting presentation of “What Makes Online Learning Work (or Not Work) for Students with LD?” Their session was generously sponsored by Understood.org. For a comprehensive look at the latest research a symposium, “Neuro-Developmental Disorders: The State of the Science and Implications for Practice” presented by Bruce F. Pennington, Ph.D., John Evans Professor, University of Denver, Department of Psychology, Denver, Colorado, and Jeffrey Gruen, M.D., Professor of Pediatrics (Neonatology), Genetics, and Investigative Medicine, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, was showcased and generously funded by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. LDA’s Healthy Children Project Workshop “Safer Chemicals, Healthier Minds” generously funded by the John Merck Fund was especially timely and well received given the current crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Thursday opened with the LDA Awards Breakfast. The LDA Award was presented to Jerome Schultz, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School. The LDA Teacher Scholarship winners were recognized along with the newly elected Board of Directors, headed by incoming LDA President Patricia Lillie.
A true highlight of the breakfast, indeed of conference week was speaker David Bowler, Director of the Office of Future Engineers, Purdue University. His topic – “Is Everybody Special?” was so well-received – he “left a mark on our hearts” attendees said after finishing the session. The rest of Thursday was filled with hands on teaching (Table Talk for Teachers) sessions, parenting sessions and transition to college sessions.
Behind the scenes all week the LDA Board of Directors, LDA committees and the LDA State Affiliates worked to continue to serve and support children and adults with learning disabilities.
A great big thank you to the Program Committee, led by Mark Griffin and Jennifer Harkins; and the Conference Committee led by Linda Modenbach and Sandra Britt; and the national LDA office staff, led by Executive Director, Mary-Clare Reynolds for the success of LDA in Orlando 2016!