Chicago 2015The 52nd Annual LDA International Conference was held in Chicago, February 18-21, 2015, at the Hilton Chicago.  To paraphrase, the weather outside was frightful, but the conference inside was delightful.

The member reception held Tuesday evening in the Waldorf Room at the hotel kicked off a week of exciting events.  LDA of Illinois provided beautiful table decorations consisting of hot air balloons anchored by a basket of markers.  Attendees were encouraged to select a balloon, write their state name on it, and encourage others to sign it as the evening progressed.  There are many advantages to membership with the conference member reception being one.  LDA of Illinois, our host state was led by Bev Johns, state president, assisted by Pat Glatz and a host of wonderful volunteers.  Thank you LDA of Illinois for a job well done.

The Program Committee led by Chairs, Robin Church and BJ Wiemer developed a program to provide a wealth of information for parents, teachers,  adults with learning disabilities, postsecondary providers, and other professionals.  Conference Committee Chair was Linda Modenbach, assisted by Connie Parr, Assistant General Chair.

The opening keynote address. titled Will the Current Tech Revolution Usher in a Golden Age for All Learners? was presented by Betsy Beaumon, VP/General Manager, Global Literacy Program, Benetech Corporation.  The grand opening of the Exhibit Hall followed the keynote address. Attendees got their first look at the incredible array of Silent Auction items as the Exhibit Hall opened. The remainder of the day included breakout sessions, workshops and a poster session.  A special event was held Wednesday evening which was the showing of the film, Toxic Hot Seat.

Thursday’s general session opened with the presentation of the Sam Kirk Educator of the Year Award.  This award is named for Dr. Samuel Kirk, noted pioneer in the field of learning disabilities. The recipient of the award is an individual who has made a significant contribution to the field of learning disabilities. Dr. Richard Owens of Iowa is this year’s Sam Kirk Educator of the Year.

The keynote address was given by Randy Lewis, author, Fortune 50 Senior Executive and disability employment visionary.  Mr. Lewis’ address set the stage for Thursday’s focus on adult issues.  The day continued with the Topical Adult Issues Workshop titled, Who Owns the Future? Employers Reflect on Jobs of the Future.  The Adult Luncheon featured Tyron Hampton who talked about his experiences as an individual with learning disabilities.  He is an entrepreneur as well as a Board of Education member for the Pasadena Unified School District, Pasadena, California. The Harrison Sylvester Award, presented to an individual who has met the challenges of their learning disability to become a successful adult and advocate, was awarded to Kayla Wilson of Georgia. Breakout sessions and Poster Session 2 rounded out the day. A second special event, the showing of Ken Burns’ film, The Address, was held Thursday evening.  The documentary tells of a small school in Vermont where each year the students are encouraged to memorize, practice and recite the Gettysburg Address.  The students at the Greenwood School where the film was made face a variety of learning challenges.

Friday offered Table Talk for Teachers, breakout sessions, and workshops on a broad range of topics.   A special workshop was presented by Melody Musgrove, Ph.D., Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education.  Her topic was What’s So Special about Special Education.  The day concluded with the annual Awards Banquet.  The featured speakers were the Shut Up Sisters, Gina Gallagher and Patricia Terrasi.  They are authors of the book, Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid! A Survival Guide for Ordinary Parents of Special Children.  The LDA Award, the highest award presented by LDA was presented to Robin Church, Baltimore, Maryland. The President’s Award was presented to Robert Broudo, Prides Crossing, Massachusetts.

Saturday sessions provided choices from twelve different strands ranging from Adult Transition to Technology.  Even while this conference was progressing, the Program Committee began planning for next year’s conference which will be in Orlando, Florida, February 15-18, 2016.  Start planning now to attend. 

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