Submit a Nomination for the 2023 Harrison Sylvester Award!

About the Award

This award honors and recognizes an adult with learning disabilities who has shown a strong dedication and commitment to advancing the issues of adults with learning disabilities. It is the wish of LDA to thank, in Harry Sylvester’s name, an adult with learning disabilities for his/her commitment to those living with learning disabilities.

The Harrison Sylvester Award was created in 2010 to honor Harry Sylvester, a gentle but strong voice in the field of learning disabilities. Harry discovered in his mid 50’s, after struggling for most of life, that he was an adult with learning disabilities. With the knowledge of his learning disabilities came an empowerment to help others, and he dedicated his life to this work. Harry was a President of the Learning Disabilities Association of America and carried LDA’s message of acceptance, understanding and support throughout the country.

Nomination Procedures

The recipient of the Harrison Sylvester Award must be a person with learning disabilities who has shown a significant commitment and dedication to adults with learning disabilities and their issues.

Nominations must include a completed nomination form (below), including a brief description of how the learning disabilities have affected his/her life and a one-page description of the work the individual has done.

The award will be presented at LDA’s national conference, being held in 2023 in Las Vegas, NV. Complimentary conference registration will be provided.

Nominations can be submitted online using the form below or sent to the LDA office at 4068 Mount Royal Boulevard, Suite 224B, Allison Park, PA 15101. All nominations must be received by November 21, 2022.

Questions can be sent to the Learning Disabilities Association of America National Office (

LDA Unveils New Member Platform and Community

LDA is excited to announce a new and improved member platform, which allows LDA Members to access all of their benefits in one place, and includes a brand new members-only social platform!

A screenshot of the new member portal dashboard, which includes links to the LDA Learning Center, LDA Article Library, and Members-Only Community

In the new member portal members can access the LDA webinar archives, which include over 37 hours of content. All previously purchased webinars and presentation handouts replays will also be available in our new learning center. After completing a webinar or session, the learner will now automatically earn a certificate of attendance.

LDA’s Learning Center, which includes the members-only webinar archive, an introduction to the new member portal, and any previously purchased webinars.

LDA Today, LDA’s monthly e-newsletter, has always been a member benefit. The new member platform makes these newsletter articles easier than ever to find. All past LDA Today articles are located in the LDA Today Library, which members can access just by logging into their profile.

Lastly, LDA has introduced an entirely new member benefit: a social platform where members can connect. Networking with others has been one of the most requested features for members over the years, and LDA is proud to now offer this benefit.

LDA’s members-only social platform dashboard, where members can post, like, comment, join groups, and friend request other members. The platform has many similarities to Facebook.

The platform shares similarities to Facebook, where members can post, like, and comment. Members can also join groups on topics that they’re interested in, like the Healthy Children Project, advocacy, higher education, adults with LD, a parent group, and more!

Join groups of interest in the members-only community.

With this new member platform, LDA aims to add value to membership, and to continue to support the learning disability community, families, educators, advocates, and other LD professionals.

Not Everyone is Going Back to School: Supports For Students Choosing Other Paths to Success

From LDA’s Mental Health Committee

Recently, you have likely noticed your Facebook or Instagram flooded with pictures of your friends’ children returning to school for the fall. Whether their child was going to preschool or college, photos of their child’s accomplishments and outfits for the first day back to school were posted everywhere. Parents shared how proud they are that their child is going to their alma mater or taking a leap to go to school out of state to pursue their dreams. And then there were all of the pictures showing off decorated dorm rooms or first college apartments. We all love seeing the pride these parents feel, but what about the kids who have decided that college is not for them, or they are just not ready to go away for school? 

While many of our high school graduates with learning disabilities may be going to college, others are tired of school—after all, it was difficult for them, and they are tired of facing another day of challenges. They want a new start, they want to find their strengths, or they want the burden of school lifted from their shoulders. With today’s pressures, how do parents cope with the frequent questions they might get from well-meaning friends and relatives? How do parents and students talk about the paths they are taking to find their success?  

Here are some factors to consider:

Needing a gap year, or two, or three

A new high school graduate may be excited about college, but is not ready to start. The old adage “If you don’t go to college right after high school, you never will go” is a false assumption for many. More and more students are choosing to postpone traditional academic plans and take a gap year or more. Some colleges and universities offer a gap year deferment. According to the Gap Year Association, 90% of students who take time off after high school enroll in college within a year. Studies have shown a correlation between taking a gap year to higher college GPAs and improved job satisfaction. 

Students with learning disabilities are often not developmentally ready for college and lack the necessary executive functioning skills to tackle the academic demands of higher education. A gap year can provide an opportunity to improve those executive functioning skills, mature and gain independence, gain work and life experiences, have time to explore interests and develop a purpose for the future, as well as boost self-confidence.

College isn’t for everyone

Students with learning disabilities are often intimidated by the classroom environment, and though success is attainable with the right amount of support and accommodations, college is NOT for everyone. Individuals without college degrees are just as valuable to our society and economy as those with degrees. Career and technical programs, trade schools, or entering the workforce might be a better fit for your student. Remember, education does not always result in better earning potential.

Avoiding the comparison path

 Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” You and your student are not inadequate! Providing support and understanding for your new graduate’s needs and decisions regarding attending college can contribute to their life success. Remember, children develop at different rates. Children even in the same family are very different. One may be an introvert, while another is an extrovert. One may like sports, and the other does not. Capitalize on those differences and show your child that you appreciate their differences.

Rehearse what you and your child will say to the questioners who want to know—Why aren’t they going on to college?” 

‘Where are you going to college? What will you study? Are you excited about this next chapter in your life?’ Those are all questions asked of students graduating high school and taking the next steps in their lives. The social and emotional toll it takes on a teen that isn’t going to college and to see their peers moving away and living on their own for the first time can be heartbreaking. Their journey looks different and needs to be accepted in today’s society. They should be celebrated too. It’s hard for some people to fathom that someone would not want to go to college, but in reality, not everyone chooses that path. In today’s world, there are many options for newly graduated seniors to choose from for their future that do not include going to college.

It’s essential to have a plan when visiting family or friends to prepare for the inevitable deluge of questions about college. Help guide your graduate by playing out different scenarios for when the questioning begins. If they aren’t planning on furthering their education, they can talk about a job they are applying for. Having a plan in place for any situation will help to keep your teen prepared so it does not become an anxiety-inducing event, and it can put everyone at ease.

Talk with your teen about how to handle unsolicited advice. Everyone has that one (or more) friend or family member who shares suggestions on what they think your new graduate should do with the rest of their life. “You’re good at math, you should be an accountant.” or “You’re so good at doing make-up. Have you considered cosmetology school?” It might be difficult for you or your teen, but be empowered to let the good-intentioned questioners and would-be advisors know that this is the new graduate’s journey and they will find their path.

Help Your Child Find Their Strengths and Interests

A child with a learning disability has been reminded daily of their school career and weaknesses. Those weaknesses may have been remediated, and they may have learned to compensate for them, but it was a struggle. Some days were so exhausting that they just wanted to come home and sleep. Imagine what a breath of fresh air it might be to have the time to explore your strengths. Talents may have gotten buried with all the weaknesses. The student may have always wanted to learn a new skill, so they may choose to go to a trade school, or they have always wanted to draw, and now they have some time to do that.

For some individuals, the pandemic was a chance for a creative rebirth; there were opportunities to discover what they liked to do when suddenly they were confined at home and had more time. When students graduate from school, they can find their creativity. Some students may decide they want to help others, so they may want to be an assistant in a skilled care, daycare, or school. Parents should help their children find their path to shine rather than pressuring them to do what their parent has chosen. Guidance, not pressure, is needed!

Living at Home

There may be several reasons a student might be living at home rather than moving away. The child may be easily led by peers and needs more structure and supervision. It could also have to do with the financial impact on the student and the family. Parents may want to assist the teen financially to live away from home, but they cannot afford it. One of the parents or a sibling may have serious medical needs that have caused a strain on their budget. They don’t want to go into debt for additional expenses.  

In some households, the child may need to assist with the caregiving of a grandparent living in the home, or a parent requiring extra help. Maybe the child needs to drive other family members where they need to be. They may gain a sense of purpose or contribute to the betterment of their family. Such traits should be recognized as positive.

Many paths await our students. Celebrate and be proud of the path that your child takes.  

LDA to Hold Learning Disabilities Summit

Learning Disabilities Summit, a three part virtual event focused on critical learning disability issues

For close to 60 years, the Learning Disabilities Association of America has been educating, advocating and supporting on behalf of all individuals with learning disabilities, including many who are today described as having dyslexia. LDA’s advocacy was instrumental to the inclusion of Specific Learning Disabilities as one of the 13 disability classifications included in the federal law now known as IDEA.

IDEA  was last reauthorized in 2004, almost 20 years ago. As LDA prepares for the eventual reauthorization of the federal law that has created educational opportunity for so many individuals with learning disabilities, we recognize the urgent need to get the best information available to policy makers, educators, professionals, and researchers.  

To this end, LDA will be hosting a three-part virtual summit focused on these critical issues: What are learning disabilities; Intervention for students with learning disabilities: What does the research say?; How do we diagnose LD? LDA has worked with our Professional Advisory Board, to identify speakers  who will offer the most current, research informed thinking on these important topics. Several notable  scholars, policymakers and school leaders have already made a commitment to participate in this three part summit. 

These presentations will be recorded, and available to watch at a later date.

October 11

The LD Construct: What are Learning Disabilities?

Speakers: Dr. Lauren McGrath, Dr. Hugh Catts, Dr. Lee Swanson

Discussant: Dr. Scott Decker

October 25

What are the Evidenced-Based Interventions for Learning Disabilities?

Speakers: Dr. Douglas Fuchs, Dr. Lynn Fuchs, Dr. Marcia Barnes, Dr. Michael Coyne

Discussant: Dr. D.J. Bolger

November 4

How do we Diagnose Learning Disabilities?

Speakers: Dr. Dawn Flanagan, Dr. Tuire Koponen, Dr. Rick Wagner, Dr. Molly Colvin

Discussant: Dr. Joel Schneider

Attend College Transition 101!

College Transition 101, August 23rd, 12pm EST. A webinar with Julie Yindra, Director of Student Access Services at Hofstra University

August 23rd, 12pm ET

Learn what you as parents as well as your students need to know to facilitate a smooth transition from high school to college. We will review the differences between special education and 504 accommodations in high school and reasonable accommodations mandated by federal civil rights law, and the college search and admissions process for students with learning disabilities. We will discuss the changing role of parents and the responsibilities of students as independent learners and self-advocates.

This webinar will be recorded, and a copy of the recording will be sent to all registrants. This webinar is free to LDA Members, and $15 for nonmembers.

About the Speaker

Julie Yindra is currently Director of Student Access Services at Hofstra University. Her career in education includes 22 years in higher education and 8 years as a classroom teacher at the middle and high school levels. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Guilford College, and a master’s degree in Special Education from the University of North Carolina.

Julie is active in the disability rights community and has presented lectures and workshops around the country on a variety of topics related to disability, higher education and transition. When not at work, she devotes time to non-profit service for disability and health related organizations, serving on the Board of Directors of the Spina Bifida Association from 2004 through 2013, and is currently a member of their Professional Advisory Committee.

Register for College Transition 101

Learn the 10 Best Strategies to Work with Struggling Math Students

10 Best Strategies to Work with Struggling Math Students, a webinar with Dr. Anneke Schreuder, founder of Dyscalculia Services. July 14th, 1pm EST, free for LDA members!

This webinar has passed, but you can still receive a copy of the recording by registering below.

Join us on July 14th, 1pm EST, for a webinar with Dr. Anneke Schreuder, dyscalculia expert and founder of Dyscalculia Services. Dr. Schreuder will share 10 different teaching strategies to help individuals with dyscalculia or students that struggle with math. These strategies can be used by caregivers, educators, tutors, and others when teaching mathematical concepts.

This webinar will be recorded and the recording will be sent to all registrants. This webinar is free for LDA Members, and $15 for non-members.

What is ADHD?

A discussion with Dr. Vincent Alfonso, psychologist and professor in the school psychology program at Gonzaga University.

What is ADHD?

ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. By and large, it’s the developmentally inappropriate frequency or severity of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. The hallmark criteria are inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. 

There’s no single cause of ADHD, but there is a fair amount of research supporting a genetic basis to ADHD. It tends to run in families. Children with ADHD demonstrate different brain structure than those without ADHD, which we know from neurological and neuropsychological studies that have been coming out in the last 10 to 20 years. And also prenatal exposure to toxic substances, nicotine, alcohol, and other drugs are associated with an increased risk of ADHD.

ADHD is largely a lifelong challenge, but it manifests itself differently over time.

How is ADHD identified?

ADHD has been around for a very long time as a diagnostic category, though the criteria for diagnosis have changed overtime in the DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 

Two Settings

In addition to experiencing inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity, one criterion is that the difficulties need to take place across two or more settings. Usually these settings include the home and the school, or the home and the workplace. Otherwise, this could be a situation or setting-specific difficulty, and not necessarily ADHD. 

Age of Presented Symptoms

Typically, the onset of ADHD is before age 12, so symptoms should be present by this time. 

However, there is what we call Adult Onset ADHD, which manifests differently than childhood ADHD. But there’s also folks who were not classified, diagnosed, misclassified or diagnosed earlier on and may have had ADHD, which makes it a little bit difficult to tease out the research. 

Symptom Length

Another criteria is that the impairment needs to have lasted at least six months in order to make a diagnosis classification. 

Not Better Accounted for By Another Disorder

Everyone can be inattentive, impulsive, hyperactive, or distracted at times, but this could be because of other factors or disorders, like anxiety or outside stressors. 

Types of ADHD

The subtyping of ADHD has changed over time, but if you read the literature, the research will often see three different major types of ADHD. 

ADHD Combined Type: 

This is the most common type and it typically involves impulsivity, hyperactivity, as well as inattention and distractibility. So it’s really, when people think of ADHD, I would think they think of this one, this overall kind of holistic disorder or difficulty. 

Impulsive Hyperactivity Type: 

This is more of the movement type, or the behavior that teachers and parents talk about because the kids are not sitting in their seats, they’re dropping things from their desks, they’re completely disorganized, or blurt out answers. 

Inattentive and Distractible Type: 

This type is typically associated with inattention and distractibility. So you don’t see hyperactivity or impulsivity as much, but you will see drifting off into space, not having the ability to sustain attention, or being distracted by outside noises or other students in the room.

How common is it to have ADHD and a learning disability?

I think everybody agrees that it is common for school age students to have ADHD and some type of learning disability. And the reasons for this high comorbidity (co-occurrence), is that there’s probably a shared genetic predisposition and underlying neurophysiology for ADHD and LD. 

Also students in K-12 may acquire academic skill deficits because of the ADHD behavior, like they’re not paying attention or they’re hyperactive, and those behaviors interfere with learning. Also, students with a learning disability may exhibit ADHD behaviors because they cannot understand the subject matter, or they’re not motivated to learn because they have a learning problem, challenge, or disability. So they wander off, they drift, they’re not paying attention, so then they may exhibit ADHD symptoms.

Pure ADHD is rare. ADHD typically has comorbidity with other disorders. Of course, we’re talking about learning disorders or learning disabilities, but it can also occur with other behavior disorders. It can also co-occur with anxiety and depression.

Treatments and Accommodations for ADHD

The combination of stimulant medication, sometimes called pharmacotherapy, and a kind of behavior management technique is the leading treatment, especially for school age individuals. 

When there’s a comorbidity with a learning disability, or disabilities, it can be best to target both the academic skill deficits and the challenging behaviors at the same time, because that provides the highest probability for improvement in the academic and behavior domains. 

The disadvantage of this combined approach is that it requires a lot of resources and intensive intervention. The more intricate the intervention, the greater the possibility is that the regimen won’t be followed correctly. 

It’s possible to target only the behavioral side or only the academic side, and there will be some generalized effect in the other domain, but I think that if we can provide interventions on the behavioral and academic side at the same time, with fidelity and with cooperation with families, then I think the prognosis is pretty good. 

ADHD Myths

That sugar, food additives, or fluorescent lighting cause ADHD

I’m not sure you want to give a lot of sugar to a student who is hyperactive or impulsive, but it doesn’t cause the disorder. There’s no single cause of ADHD, but research supports that it tends to run in families, or can be caused by prenatal exposure to toxic substances. 

That individuals with ADHD are acting out on purpose

ADHD is very clearly a self-regulatory disorder, and that has its roots in the individual’s neurobiology, and probably has genetic predisposition. So it’s not like they’re just choosing to not control it, misbehave, or are engaging in bad behavior. Individuals with ADHD need interventions to help control their behavior and alleviate their symptoms. 

That ADHD just goes away

Like a learning disability, ADHD doesn’t really go away. It’s a lifelong disorder that presents lifelong challenges, and those challenges change over time. 

That stimulant medication fixes everything

It certainly doesn’t. I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to psychopharmacology for children or students K-12 that we have the largest research basis on stimulant medication, as opposed to medication for anxiety or depression. Stimulants don’t necessarily teach students with learning problems or anything, but what they do is help them to be more ready to learn. 

I am not a big fan of pharmacotherapy for K-12, but when it’s needed it’s necessary, and it’s helpful. And there are positive side effects, like they’re able to pay more attention, and they have fewer behavior problems. I also think that you have to have a physician or a pediatric neurologist or neuropsychologist who understands the impact or influence of medication on our younger folks. 

Listen to the full discussion with Dr. Alfonso on The LDA Podcast. Search “The LDA Podcast” on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. or listen here.