by Patricia M. Lillie, LDA President

Dear Members and Friends of LDA,

I invite you to read this letter from beginning to end.  There is an introduction, a memo of appreciation, a sharing of a genuine concern for the safety and well-being of the construct of Learning Disabilities and a message of gratitude to the Poses Family Foundation and to the Learning Disabilities Foundation of America.

Introduction of the new LDA President, Beth McGaw

This is my final report to you as President of the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).  The last two years seem to have gone by very quickly.  In February I passed the torch to the 2018-2020 President of LDA, Beth McGaw.  Beth, from Dallas, Texas, is a parent, and has served as President of LDA of Texas.  She has been a member of the LDA Board of Directors for 4 years and Executive Committee for the past 3 years.  One of Beth’s main areas of interest is the transition years, when young people with SLD and/or ADHD, and their parents, are puzzling about the future and trying to make decisions about postsecondary education and/or the workplace.  Beth is known for her get- up-and-go as well as good organizational skills.  I look forward to supporting the new ideas she will be bringing to LDA.

The 2019 LDA Conference will be held in her home state and LDA of Texas will be the host Affiliate, February 18-21, 2019, in Fort Worth, Texas.  Joining Beth on the LDA Executive Committee are Jonathan Jones, 1st Vice President from Wyoming, Lori Parks from Michigan as 2nd Vice President, Jenn Harkins, Secretary, from Connecticut, Treasurer Kevin Gailey, from Indiana and LDA Board Representative, Rose Calloway from Georgia.

Words of Appreciation

For the past two years it has been my privilege and honor to work with an outstanding group of friends and colleagues who continually gave of their time, energy and expertise to make the world a better place for individuals with learning disabilities and/or attention disorders.  This is a wonderful group of people who make up the LDA Board of Directors, Committee Chairs and Members, LDA State Affiliates, Members of the LDA Professional Advisory Board and our Pittsburgh, PA based office staff.  I want to give special recognition and thanks to LDA Executive Director, Mary-Clare Reynolds. For those who call the office, Mary-Clare is the very pleasing voice on the other end of the line and is always there for us with her in-depth knowledge and support for all facets of the organization.  Also appreciation for Stephanie Fedro-Byrom, Operations Manager, who keeps everything moving along.

Special Thanks to the 2018 Conference Committee who once again produced a wonderful conference: Chair, Ann Kornblet; Assistant Chair, BJ Wiemer; members, Sandra Britt, Candace Joles, Connie Parr, Holly Rice and the Conference Program Committee Chairs, Jennifer Harkins and Lori Parks.  Jerry Schultz, Chair of the LDA Professional Advisory Board (PAB) has done a wonderful job of bringing professionals, parents, educators, and students together.  Not only did he make himself available to discuss issues but his kind nature along with a really great sense of humor, helped us look at things in a positive and “can do light.” Jerry, along with Melinda Parrill (who every year flies from England to attend the LDA Conference), have joined forces with PAB Member EunMi Cho to reach out to presenters coming from other countries.  Calling this group TIPS (Treasured International Presenters), daily meetings were held during the conference to welcome, share experiences and information about learning disabilities in countries around the world. What these committed LDA committee members have accomplished and continue to accomplish, shows teamwork at its best.

Words of Thanks to the Poses Family Foundation and to the Learning Disabilities Foundation of America.

This past spring, the LDA Board of Directors decided to take part in a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis offered by the Poses Family Foundation (PFF) to each of the 16 founding partners of Understood, “…nonprofit organizations that have joined forces to support parents of the one in five children with learning and attention issues throughout their journey.” Several different groups from LDA had conference calls with an advising team from PFF and then a SWOT analysis of the LDA group responses was done.  The end result was a presentation by PFF members during our Spring Board meeting, with proposed recommendations for consideration by the Board.  One of the top responses was to strengthen LDA State Affiliates; another was to work with the LDA Professional Advisory Board to enhance support for educators.  The Board took immediate action on the first recommendation and submitted a proposal to the Learning Disabilities Foundation of America to fund a staff position: State Affiliate Support.  Many thanks to the LD Foundation for funding this position for the next three years.  We are extremely pleased to say that we now have an LDA Coordinator of Affiliate Services, Aaron Goldstein, who will be working directly with our state affiliates. We will be hearing much more about Aaron in the coming months from President Beth McGaw.

In a survey from LDA sent out to individuals on our mailing list, one of the services LDA provides and most valued by respondents was LDA’s voice in Washington D.C.  Myrna Mandlawitz, LDA Policy Director, is constantly on “The Hill” in Washington, attending committee meetings, talking with legislators, working with other disability advocacy groups and advocating for individuals with learning disabilities.  Myrna and Co-Chairs of the LDA Public Policy/Advocacy Committee, JoAnna J. Barnes and Monica McHale-Small and members of the committee, work to keep us informed of what is going on and what we can do to help make sure legislation and policy are written with the needs of individuals with learning disabilities in mind.

Reauthorization of IDEA

It’s been fourteen years since the last reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA); the next one is thought to be coming soon.  IDEA is one of the most important pieces of legislation in the life of children with disabilities, including children with Specific Learning Disabilities. The legislation in IDEA mandates how children are evaluated for learning disabilities, are identified as having learning disabilities and are found eligible for special education services and related services and then how those services are to be carried out.  IDEA also protects the rights of children and parents.  IDEA is first of all a funding law.  It funds special education and designates how those funds may be used.  Congress initially promised to fund 40% of the cost of special education; however, current funding is at about 18%.

In the next reauthorization of IDEA, children with learning disabilities have much to lose or much to gain, depending how legislators and the U.S. Department of Education listen to and take into account the needs of our children.  If you are not yet a member of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, please become a member so we can keep you informed – membership information is on the LDA website, Membership in National LDA also provides membership in your LDA state affiliate.  The more voices we have, the more likely LDA will be heard.  We invite you to help increase the voice of LDA in your state and in Washington, D.C.

Patricia M. Lillie is the Immediate Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association of America. She also served as president in 2010-2012. During her time on the LDA Board of Directors Pat served as a committee member and chaired several committees through the years. Prior to board service at the national level, Pat served as President of the North Carolina LDA affiliate as well as serving on committees for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

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