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Why Does Policy Matter to LDA?

Did you know….

  • During the 2019-2020 school year, more than 7 million public school students received special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)?  Students with learning disabilities (LD) made up the largest percentage of the 7 million!  
  • The IDEA guarantees that all students, regardless of disability, receive a free appropriate public education?
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that accommodations are made for individuals with learning disabilities in higher education?
  • Federal and state laws have a direct impact on the opportunities, protections, and accommodations available to children and adults with learning disabilities?

These are just a few reasons why policy and advocacy matter to LDA and to you!  It is critical that the voice of the LD community is heard and represented as our lawmakers create policy affecting individuals with learning disabilities. 

At LDA, we closely monitor education policy issues that affect individuals with LD, and advocate on your behalf.  The voice of our members needs to be heard by state and federal lawmakers across the country! 

Join LDA today to make sure your voice is heard.

The LDA Podcast

The LDA Podcast, from the Learning Disabilities Association of America. Creating a More Equitable World for ALL Learners. Exploring topics of interest to educators, individuals with learning disabilities, parents, and professionals.

Episode 48: Celebrating Young Advocates: Meet Aashna Shah!

Aashna Shah is a junior in high school, Miss Florida’s Outstanding Teen, an author of three books, a motivational speaker, and a passionate learning disability advocate.

Aashna shares her journey through her learning disability diagnosis, discusses her book series on destigmatizing learning disabilities, talks of the learning disability stigma in the Indian community, and much more!

Get to know Aashna and learn more about her awesome advocacy work in Florida!
Visit: shahaashna.com

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Episode 47: Advocacy in Special Education: A Talk with an IEP Coach

“I had an IEP through high school and I really know the power of the special education system…And I feel like I’m living out the purpose of an IEP, which is to prepare you for life after high school.”

Disability advocate, speech-language pathology assistant, and IEP coach Courtney Burnett had an IEP herself growing up, and now she uses her expertise to empower parents to help students get evaluated and supported. Courtney discusses the main barriers to accessing special education, the purpose and goal of an IEP, how parents can have an active role in their child’s education, and much more!

Resources discussed in this episode include:

U.S. Department of Ed’s IDEA website
5 Questions for your IEP Meeting

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Episode 46: What is NVLD?

Dr. Jessica Broitman and Dr. Jack Davis explain the challenges individuals with a nonverbal learning disability face, helpful strategies and accommodations, and how they’re part of a team working to get NVLD into the DSM.

For more information on NVLD, visit The NVLD Project. 

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Episode 45: Empowering Rebel Talent: A Talk with Denise Brodey

2023 Harrison Sylvester Award winner Denise Brodey is an LD & ADHD advocate, author, senior contributor to Forbes writing about disability, equity, and inclusion, and the founder of Rebel Talent, an organization that provides support to individuals with ADHD and/or learning disabilities that are struggling in the workplace.

Denise shares some of the most common issues individuals with LD & ADHD seem to face in the workplace, the importance of neurodiverse voices in media, and the future of disability inclusion in the workplace.

Hear more from Denise and find resources at: elephants-everywhere.com

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Episode 44: The Gift of Being Different: Abigail’s Dyslexia Journey

Before she could even read or write, Abigail Berg and her mother, Monica, began writing “The Gift of Being Different,” a children’s book that features Abigail’s journey of learning about how her dyslexia is a superpower. Abigail and Monica join us to talk about the formation of the book, how Monica helped Abigail to find her strengths, and how they’re working to encourage others to embrace their differences. 

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Episode 43: LDs That Impact Writing: Teaching Strategies, Tips, and More!

“I think anybody can be a great writer, they need the support, they need the encouragement, and you need a positive attitude about it.”

Dr. Toby Tomlinson Baker shares tips and lessons from 13 years of teaching experience, and provides strategies and accommodations that can be helpful for all struggling writers. 

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Episode 42: Defining Dyscalculia with Laura Jackson

When Laura Jackson found her daughter had dyscalculia, she learned as much as she could about the SLD for six years. After her difficulty finding resources, she created a website and blog called Discovering Dyscalculia to help others to find the information she didn’t have at the time. 

In this episode, we sit down with Laura to discuss her family’s journey, how dyscalculia affects far more than just math class, strategies for math instruction, advocacy, the importance of community, and much more!

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Episode 41: Early Identification and Evaluation

In this episode, Dr. Vincent Alfonso, psychologist and Professor in the School of Education at Gonzaga University, discusses why early, accurate identification is so important, what developmentally-based evaluations typically entail, how early a child can be identified with an LD, and why universal screeners for learning disabilities are so essential. 

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Episode 40: Key Conversations: Talking to Your Child About their LD

How can parents and educators talk to their child about their learning disability? Dr. Rebecca Rolland, a speech language pathologist and educator at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Harvard Medical School, talks about the importance of having rich conversations with your kids, how these conversations can build resilience and empathy, and more. 

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Episode 39: From Injury to Everest, Dyslexia Gave Me GGRIT

From recovering from a life threatening injury, to becoming a rocket scientist, to summiting Mount Everest, Meghan Buchanan credits her dyslexia for the grit she’s developed. Learn more about Meghan’s story of perseverance, her goal of completing the Explorer’s Grand Slam, and how she’s climbing to raise awareness for learning disabilities. Follow Meghan’s journey on Instagram @ggrit

Watch the video of this interview at: https://bit.ly/LDAGGRIT

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Episode 38: Adults with LD & ADHD

We sit down with with Elaine Taylor-Klaus, a master certified coach and co-founder of ImpactParents, to clear up common misconceptions about adults with LD and ADHD, how to ask for the supports you need to succeed, and more! 

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Episode 37: HCP: Working Towards Safer Baby Food

In this episode Healthy Children Project Director Tracy Gregoire talks to Charlote Brody, the National Director of Healthy Babies Bright Futures, about a new report that analyzes the toxic heavy metals in homemade vs. store bought food for babies. 

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Episode 36: LD in College: Accommodations and Documentation

We talk with college learning disabilities consultant Elizabeth C. Hamblet to discuss the rights of college students with LD, what documentation they may need for accommodations, what accommodations are commonly available, advice for self-advocating, and more!

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Episode 35: HCP: Don’t Bug Me: Choosing Safer Insect Repellant 

Tracy Gregoire, Director of the Healthy Children Project, and Sydney Cook, Director of Science and Research at MADE SAFE, have a comprehensive conversation insect repellant, healthy alternatives, best practices, and more!

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Episode 34: What is ADHD?

Though not a learning disability itself, ADHD can frequently co-occur with learning disabilities. We talk with Dr. Vincent Alfonso about the types of ADHD, how different symptoms show up in children and adults, common ADHD myths, the frequency of having both ADHD and LD, and more!

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Episode 33: HCP: Fun in the Sun: Safety Tips From the Healthy Children Project

Healthy Children Project (HCP) Director Tracy Gregoire and LDA Michigan President and HCP Coordinator Amy Barto discuss tips for staying safe in the sun this summer. Learn what ingredients to avoid when choosing a sunscreen, and hear myths about sun safety get busted! Learn more about Healthy Children Project at: https://healthychildrenproject.org/

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Episode 32: An Educator’s Guide to Helping Students with LD, Part Two

Gregg French, a special education teacher at Bullard Havens Technical High School, and President of LDA Connecticut, discusses common accommodations, the collaboration between general education teachers and special education teachers, how educators should prepare for IEP meetings, RTI, and more.

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Episode 31: An Educator’s Guide to Helping Students with LD, Part One

Kelly Haggerty, President of LDA Montana and dyslexia specialist at Dyslexia Screening and Tutoring Services, discusses signs of LD educators should be looking for, common accommodations for students with LD, ways to boost student’s social and emotional wellbeing, and more! 

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Episode 30: What to Expect When Your Child Has a Learning Disability, Part 2

This week we sit down with LDA CEO, attorney, and parent Cindy Cipoletti to discuss what caregivers should do if they suspect their child has an LD, learning disability evaluations, the difference between an IEP and 504 plan, the IEP process, and more, all from a parent’s perspective. 

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Episode 29: What to Expect When Your Child Has a Learning Disability, Part 1

We talk to Mitchell Beres, President of LDA of Virginia and father to two children with LD, about what parents can expect when their child is identified with a learning disability. 

Mitchell shares advice on how to explain your child’s LD to them, how to help your child with their homework–without doing it for them!–how to connect with your child’s school, and more.  We also discuss the importance of using specific LD terms,  and how it’s essential to teach your child to self-advocate. 

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Episode 28: Learning Disabilities and Mental Health

We sit down with learning and behavior consultant Bev Johns to discuss the prevalence of mental health issues in individuals with learning disabilities, current mental health statistics, and strategies for parents and teachers to monitor and work with students with mental health issues and LD. 

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Episode 27: Fighting for FAPE: Protecting the Rights of Military Children in Special Education

Special education attorney Grace Kim and mother Michelle Norman co-founded Partners in Promise, an organization that works to protect the rights of military children in special education. In this conversation Kim and Norman share their own experiences with the special education system, highlight the unique challenges military children in special education face, and share advice for all parents who are trying to navigate the world of special education. 

Learn more about Partners in Promise at: https://thepromiseact.org/

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Episode 26: Handwriting Instruction in the Digital Age

Dr. Nancy Cushen White, a clinical professor at UCSF and a certified instructor of teaching for the Slingerland Multisensory (Multimodal) Structured Language Approach, sits down to talk to us about dysgraphia, the cognitive skills writing uses, how handwriting can improve reading and spelling skills better than typing, recommendations for handwriting instruction, and much more!

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Episode 25: HCP: Nixing Neurotoxins: Protecting Children’s Brain Health

LDA’s Healthy Children Project Director Tracy Gregoire sits down with Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Director Liz Hitchcock to discuss the work that both organizations have done to push corporations to remove toxic chemicals from their products. This episode dives into why LDA fights to prevent toxic chemical exposures, what ‘forever chemicals’ linger in our food packaging, how campaigns of parents have made a difference in removing toxics, and how you can get involved. 

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Episode 24: Patty Gillespie: A Self Taught Reader

After struggling in school for all her life, at age 19, Patty Gillespie taught herself to read. With five learning disabilities, Gillespie was unable to thrive in the classroom, and had to find learning strategies that worked for her. These solutions would serve her in the future as she went on to become a reading specialist and educator, and her own life experience would give her empathy and a connection with her students. 

Listen to hear Gillespie’s story, learn what tips she gives to those helping struggling readers, and hear her advice to students with learning disabilities. 

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Episode 23: Dyslexia, Literacy, and Race

In this episode, LDA President Monica McHale-Small sits with special educator Dr. Lauren McClenney-Rosenstein to discuss the misidentification of learning disabilities in students of color, the intersection of environmental justice and disproportionality, the challenges that low income communities and communities of color face in getting the right support in education, and more. 

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Episode 22: The Strengths of Those with Learning Disabilities

Carolyn Phillips, an expert in assistive technology, believes that her learning disabilities are “kind of a superpower.” Beth McGaw, past president of LDA, says her son’s struggles have made him resilient and stronger. Scientist Collin Diedrich explains how thinking differently can benefit his work. 

In this last episode of our LD Month mini-series, we celebrate the strengths within individuals with learning disabilities, and explore the silver lining of living with LD. 

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Episode 21: Advocacy 101: Connecting with Policymakers

Which type of policymaker should you reach out to when advocating for individuals with learning disabilities? What’s the best format to use when contacting a representative? When should you get the press involved? 

PA State Representative Dan Miller and LDA advocates Bev Johns and Daphne Uliana answer these questions and more, while dishing out their best advocacy advice. 

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Episode 20: Science Based Practices in Education

In this episode of our Learning Disabilities Awareness Month Mini-Series, we talk to Dr. Vincent C. Alfonso, a Professor in the School of Education at Gonzaga University and member of the LDA Board of Directors, about science based practices and interventions in education. Dr. Alfonso discusses some common interventions for students with learning disabilities, how to address the science to practice gap, and gives recommendations on how to help students with LD during the pandemic. 

What Works Clearinghouse, which Dr. Alfonso mentioned in the podcast, can be visited at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/

To visit LDA’s COVID resources for students, parents, and educators, visit: https://ldaamerica.org/lda-covid-19-resources/

Get the transcript

Episode 19: HCP: The Right to a Safe & Healthy Environment

Taking arsenic out of baby food seems like a no-brainer. But Tracy Gregoire, director of LDA’s Healthy Children Project, explains how long these changes can take. Tune in to hear about Healthy Children Project’s past victories, current campaigns, and how they work to make the world a safer, healthier place. 

To visit the Healthy Children Project website, go to: https://healthychildrenproject.org/

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Episode 18: Reading by Third Grade: The Importance of Investing Early in Our Students

“With 80% confidence, you can predict in third grade where a kid’s going to be in 10th.”

Mark Halpert of 3D Learner talks to us about the importance of identifying struggling students early and supporting them to get them on grade level by third grade. 

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Episode 17: Social Skills for Students with LD

Caroline McGuire,  the director of ADD Coach Academy and author of Why Will No One Play With Me, talks to us about the 7 aspects of socializing that students need to know, and how to teach these life skills.

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Episode 16: LD and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which refers to a range of characteristics that are caused by a fetus’s exposure to alcohol, affects between 2-5% of 1st graders in the U.S. today. 

Lyn McMurry and Julia Rivera from the North Texas FASD Network, a support group for those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, define the characteristics of FASD, talk to us about the connection between learning disabilities and FASD, and provide resources and advice. 

For more resources from the North Texas FASD Network, visit: https://dfwchild.com/directory/north-texas-fasd-network/

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Episode 15: Social Emotional Challenges for Students with Language-Based Learning Disabilities

“Every day is built up of thousands of interactions, so the way that we communicate makes a big difference.”

Dr. Helene Dionne, the Director of Counseling Services at Landmark School, and Laura Polvinen, a licensed social worker and counseling team leader at Landmark School, discuss different strategies for parents and teachers for addressing behavioral issues and social emotional challenges for students with language-based learning disabilities.

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Episode 14: Educator of the Year

“I always take on a new challenge every year to learn something new. Whether it be personal or professional, and do things that are out of my comfort zone. It helps me then to appreciate what struggles or challenges that the students that I have have to face when I’m asking them to do things.” 

What does it take to be named Educator of the Year? Patricia Buckley has been teaching special education for over 40 years, and shares with us the important lessons she’s learned along the way, like how she always keeps learning, and how to avoid teacher burnout. 

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Episode 13: HCP: Safer Back to School Supplies

In this episode, we talk to Tracy Gregoire, the coordinator of LDA’s Healthy Children Project, about how to find school supplies that are free of harmful chemicals, why these products can be difficult to find, what safer cleaning supplies schools should be considering, and more!

For more from the Healthy Children Project, visit: https://healthychildrenproject.org/

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Episode 12: Supporting Children with Anxiety in the Classroom

Anxiety in children has long been on the rise, and currently 1 in 4 children in classrooms have anxiety. Dr. Beverly Johns, author, learning and behavior consultant, and current president-elect of LDA Illinois shares some strategies for parents and teachers for helping children with anxiety. 

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Episode 11: Effective Strategies for EF Success

Sharona Sommer, the Director of Learning for the College Internship Program National (CIP) and certified professional coach, shares some tips and resources for success with executive function. CIP offers post-secondary programs for those with autism, ADHD, and other learning differences, to help individuals with the transition into adulthood. 

For more about CIP, visit: https://cipworldwide.org/

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Episode 10: Dyscalculia: Causes, consequences, and creative solutions

Dyslexia has long been one of the most well-known learning disabilities, and as such, there are many more resources for testing and assistance. Dyscalculia, which interferes with an individual’s calculation skills and their ability to comprehend math facts, is a learning disability that can often be overlooked in schools. Dr. Anneke Schreuder, the founder of Math and Dyscalculia Services, talks to us about different ways to test for dyscalculia, the importance of detecting dyscalculia early, and more. 

For resources from Math and Dyscalculia Services, visit: https://dyscalculiaservices.com/about-us/

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Episode 9: ADHD & LD: The Challenging Pathway to Adulthood

Chris Zeigler Dendy and Dr. Ruth Hughes, aside from being school and clinical psychologists, are also mothers of adult sons with ADHD. The two share their own personal experience in supporting their children through adulthood, and offer advice on topics like considering a gap year between high school and further education, how to guide your child into finding a career that they’re interested in, how to pick a college or other post-high school experience, and more. 

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Episode 8: HCP: The Healthy Children Project

In this episode, we talk to Tracy Gregoire, the coordinator of LDA’s Healthy Children Project. The mission of the Healthy Children Project is to prevent or eliminate the preventable causes of learning and developmental disabilities. While talking to Tracy, we learn about the dangers of toxic chemical exposure, different resources to find safe products, and how to advocate for companies to use safer alternatives in their products. 

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Episode 7: “Tricking” the Brain into Reading & Writing

Today, LDA’s Education Committee Chair Kristina Scott Quinlan interviews author and literacy consultant Katie Garner about teaching strategies for new or struggling readers.

Garner tells us that the social and emotional parts of the brain are the first to develop, and teaches how to take advantage of these already-built highways and connections to teach reading and writing skills.

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Episode 6: Learning to Self-Advocate

“There’s no ceiling to what we can do.”

Toby Baker’s educational experience was far from easy. She has self identified as having ADHD and a learning disability, and she frequently moved around to different schools throughout K-12. 

When it came time to go to college, her teachers and advisors tried to dissuade her, but she went anyway.  Now she talks to us about her dissertation about the perception and success of post-secondary students with LD, and the importance of self advocating to get the resources you need to succeed.  

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Episode 5: Learning Disabilities and the Brain

In this mini-episode, we get the chance to sit down with licensed psychologist Dr. Vincent Alfonso, and First Vice President of LDA Monica McHale-Small. Both discuss the definition of a learning disability and how it differs from learning difficulties, talk about the latest neurological research, and call for more federal funding for learning disability research. 

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Episode 4: How do I manage them, me and their learning disability?

“Whenever you’re dealing with a difficult situation or you’re trying to have a difficult conversation, when you spend a few moments really trying to see it from your child’s perspective and validate where they’re coming from, you change that whole tone of what that conversation is going to look like.” 

This week we talk about parenting strategies with John Wilson, the executive director of SOAR, a non-profit school, adventure camp, and gap year experience for youth with learning disabilities and ADHD. 

John talks about practicing social interactions with kids at home, letting children have a say about their home schedules, and the importance of the first five minutes after you arrive home from work. 

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Episode 3: Combating the School to Prison Pipeline

“It starts with each of us and our own willingness to grow and be lifelong learners, and extend that to our children, and then extend that to our neighbors…working with our schools and making certain that our schools are inclusive and that the programs that are offered in our school buildings…” 

Dr. Cynthia Stadel is an educational consultant out of Portland, Oregon and has worked in federally funded literacy programs for adults on probation and parole.  

In our discussion, Dr. Stadel discusses how students with disabilities and students of color are more likely to be affected by the school to prison pipeline, and speaks on what communities and families should be doing to help these students to succeed. 

Episode 2: Still LD After all These Years

78 year old Ann Johnson went through school without knowing what a learning disability was. It wasn’t until she was testing students with learning disabilities that she realized the term may apply to her. Johnson talks about navigating her life with a learning disability, and offers advice based on her own experiences. 

Episode 1: Dr. John King Jr: Supporting Learning for All

Dr. John King Jr, former U.S. Secretary of Education, and President and CEO of the Education Trust, talks about the role education has played in his life, and touches on topics such as diversifying educators, improving the student teaching experience, and allocating resources to the students that need it most. 

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Core Principles: Full Inclusion of All Students with Learning Disabilities

The Learning Disabilities Association of America, LDA, is a National organization of parents, professionals and persons with learning disabilities, focused on the education and support of individuals with learning disabilities. According to the recent figures available from Data Accountability Center, U.S. Department of Education, 2, 377, 731 students were identified as having a Specific Learning Disability in 2019. This is 37% of the 6, 410,219 school-aged students with disabilities served under IDEA. Recent estimates indicate that students with Specific Learning Disabilities are achieving at unacceptable levels behind their peers without disabilities, suggesting that they are not accessing a free and appropriate public education.

‘Full inclusion’, ‘full integration’, and ‘inclusive education’ are terms used to describe a popular policy/practice in which all students with disabilities, regardless of the nature or the severity of the disability and need for related services, receive their total education within the regular education classroom in their home school.

The Learning Disabilities Association of America does not support ‘full inclusion’ or any policy that mandates the same placement, instruction, or treatment for ALL students with learning or other disabilities. Many students with learning disabilities benefit from being served in the regular education classroom. However, the regular education classroom is not the appropriate placement for some students with learning disabilities who may need alternative instructional environments, teaching strategies, and/or materials that cannot or will not be provided within the context of a regular classroom placement. For example, a recent study found that while high school students with learning disabilities have needs in basic calculation skills, fractions, decimals, reading, social and behavioral skills, “…70% of the IEPs reviewed included only instruction in the general education setting, without specialized services (Morano, Peltier, Pulos & Peltier, 2020).”

LDA believes that decisions regarding educational placement of students with disabilities must be based on the needs of each individual rather than administrative convenience or budgetary considerations. All placement, instruction, and treatment decisions must be the results of cooperative efforts involving educators, parents, and the student when appropriate. These decisions must result in meaningful improvements to students’ educational and social outcomes in order for these decisions to be deemed appropriate.

LDA strongly support the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that mandates:

  • A free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate for the students’ individualized needs.
  • A team approved Individualized Education Program (IEP) that includes current functioning levels, instructional goals and objectives, placement and services decisions, and procedures for evaluation of program effectiveness.
  • A placement decision made on an individual basis and considered only after the development of the IEP.
  • A continuum of alternative placements to meet the needs of students with disabilities for special education and related services.
  • A system for the continuing education of regular and special education and related services personnel to enable these personnel to meet the needs of children with disabilities.

LDA believes that the placement of ALL children with disabilities in the regular education classroom is as much of a violation of IDEA as the placement of ALL children in separate classrooms on the basis of their type of disability. The regular education classroom is not the least restrictive environment for a student if the student cannot make progress in that setting; without progress a student is being denied FAPE.

Core Principles: Response to Intervention (RTI)

Response to Intervention (RTI) has far reaching implications for children with Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD); therefore, it is imperative that LDA responds to this initiative by supporting those components of RTI that can benefit individuals with SLD and identifying other components that are not in their best interest.

LDA welcomes ideas, research, and research-based practices for improving instruction and services for individuals with SLD. As new initiatives are introduced, LDA must be vigilant to ensure that they are of benefit to children and youth with SLD. It is in this spirit that this position statement is written.

The 2004 amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), [Sec.300.8(c)(10)] defines Specific Learning Disabilities as:

(A); ”GENERAL – Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations…”

These amendments also added procedures for identifying children with SLD and stipulated that states must adopt criteria for determining whether a child has a Specific Learning Disability as described above. It was further stipulated that states:

  • Must not require the use of a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability and achievement for determining whether a child has a Specific Learning Disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10)
  • Must permit the use of a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research- based intervention; and
  • May permit the use of other alternative research-based procedures for determining whether a child has a Specific Learning Disability, as defined in 34 CFR 300.8(c)(10).

The Response to Intervention Process

Prior to IDEA 2004’s recognition of “a process based on the child’s response to scientific, research-based intervention” as an SLD identification process, RTI had been regarded as a prevention model to limit or prevent academic failure for students who are having difficulty learning. Although there is no single RTI model, the many variations that have emerged since 2004 use a two-to-five tiered model. The term MTSS (Multi Tier System of Support) is sometimes used interchangeably with RTI. Each RTI or MTSS tier provides increasingly individualized instruction, continuous monitoring of progress to calculate gains, and criteria for changing interventions and/or tiers through a team decision-making process. In general, the tiers would include:

Tier I: high quality instruction and behavioral supports provided in general education classrooms.

Tier II: small group instruction – intensive specialized interventions provided with consistency by highly trained teachers.

Tier III:  more individualized intervention and/or referral for special education.

Another purpose of RTI is to serve as part of a comprehensive evaluation for SLD. Local Education Agencies must use the eligibility criteria developed by their state. States must permit, and may require, using RTI as a part of eligibility criteria.

LDA supports the promise of RTI as an early intervention process initiated by general education to ensure that, at the first sign of school problems, students will receive academic supports including:

  • Early, high-quality, scientific research-based interventions
  • Continuous monitoring of student performance and progress during interventions
  • Use of response data to change the intensity or type of subsequent interventions
  • Parents and families informed and involved in team decision making throughout the intervention process

LDA recognizes the difficulties in the effective implementation of RTI as a system-wide initiative and has concerns about the following:

  • The lack of availability of “scientific, research-based interventions” for all ages and all academic domains. While there is much scientific evidence to help educators teach early reading skills (e.g., phonological awareness and beginning decoding skills), there is less research-based knowledge about how to teach reading comprehension, math, spelling, writing, or content areas of science and social studies.
  • The need for ongoing professional development for general education personnel who will be implementing RTI. 
  • The inconsistent implementation of researched-based interventions with fidelity is a continuing, pressing concern.
  • The need for more research regarding implementation of RTI in middle and high school students.
  • The need for school districts to develop consistency in the design of RTI models across local school agencies.
  • The lack of controlled studies regarding the use of RTI in SLD determination. 

LDA supports RTI as one component of a comprehensive determination of eligibility, specifically:

  • LDA supports the appropriate implementation of the first two tiers of RTI to ensure that the children who are eventually identified as having SLD participated in programs providing effective instruction and, when appropriate, intervention. Such practices should help reduce so-called false positives (identification of children who fail to achieve academic goals because, in fact, they have not received appropriate instruction).

It is essential that parents be aware of their right to send a written request to the school system that their child receive a comprehensive evaluation for identification/eligibility for special education services at any time during the RTI process.

LDA does not support the use of an RTI process as the sole evaluative process for the identification of SLD for these reasons:

  • The use of a RTI instructional/intervention framework should not be construed as the only, or as the most important process for SLD identification. Practitioners in some states already use RTI in this manner, resulting in low-achievement as a definition of SLD and labeling of students with SLD as having a “non-categorical” disability. This discourages the use of multi-disciplinary evaluation teams and the use of cognitive, language, and perceptual tests. In effect, this subverts many years of clinical practice and empirical research on learning disabilities.
  • Learning disabilities must not be equated with low achievement alone. The RTI low achievement criterion may exclude some high-ability students with SLD from special education despite the fact that IDEA regulations (Sec 300.301) state: “FAPE (free appropriate public education) is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade and is advancing from grade to grade.”
  • Research studies indicate that lack of fidelity of RTI implementation ( Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L., 2017), as well as the use of different methods and measures for determining progress and growth make RTI an arbitrary method for determining SLD. (Fuchs, Doug, February 19,  2021, [LDA Conference Presentation]; Richards -Tutor, C., Solari, E. et. al. 2012).

Data documenting the child’s response or failure to respond to intervention is critically important in a comprehensive evaluation process. Additionally, IDEA regulations specify that a comprehensive evaluation must use a variety of assessment tools, must assess all areas of suspected disability (IDEA), [Sec.300.304(c)(4)] and must use technical sound instruments to assess the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors. (IDEA), [Sec.300.304(b)(3)]. 

It is the position of LDA that all evaluations for Specific Learning Disabilities must include assessment of cognitive processes.


Fuchs, Doug, February 19,  2021 , A three minute argument against using RTI  to    identify children and youth with LD. [Conference Presentation] Feb. 18-21, 2021 LDA  58th Annual International Conference ,  Dallas, Tx. USA, Virtual 

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L., (2017 ) Critique of the national evaluation of response to intervention: a case for simpler frameworks. Exceptional Children Vol 83 (3) 255-268.Richards-Tutor, C., Solari, E. et.al. (2012), Response to intervention for English    learners: examining models for determining response and non response. Assessment for Effective Intervention. XX(X)1-13.)

LDA Awards Individuals for Contributions to Those with Learning Disabilities


[New Orleans, Louisiana] At the Learning Disabilities Association of America’s (LDA) 59th Annual Conference, the organization presented awards to Robert Broudo, Head of Landmark School, Rachel Berger, learning disabilities AT specialist of Microsoft, Cindy Silvert of the Woodward Academy Transition Learning Support Program and Dr. Scott Decker from the University of South Carolina. 

The awards presentation is a highlight of each LDA Conference, and honors those who have accomplished outstanding achievements in fulfilling the mission of LDA on behalf of all individuals with learning disabilities. 

“LDA considers it a privilege to honor champions in the field of learning disabilities,” LDA CEO Cindy Cipoletti said, “These amazing people are out there every day making sure that children and adults with learning disabilities are equipped to be successful in school, at work, and in their relationships. Honoring these champions was an opportunity for LDA to express our gratitude for the work they do.”

This year’s LDA Award recipient, Robert Broudo, has dedicated decades to helping students with dyslexia and language-based learning disabilities. Since 1990, Broudo has served as the head of Landmark School, a Massachusetts-based school serving students in grades 2-12 with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. The LDA Award is the highest honor given by LDA, and is presented in recognition and appreciation of outstanding leadership, support, and dedication in the field of learning disabilities. 

“I am sincerely honored and humbled to receive the LDA Award from an organization that I have deeply respected and cared about for so many years because of its missions, focus, and energy to create awareness and equality in education for all learners through advocacy and training,” Broudo said. 

The Harrison Sylvester Award recognizes an adult with learning disabilities who has shown a strong dedication and commitment to advancing the issues of adults with learning disabilities. Rachel Berger, the recipient of this award, has dedicated years to ensuring that individuals with learning disabilities are able to access education and employment opportunities. As an individual with dyslexia, Berger’s lived experience informs her work, which includes managing accessibility engagement at Microsoft and serving in multiple disability and literacy partnerships, nonprofits, and coalitions. 

“I’m honored to be recognized by LDA for my work in the field of learning disabilities.  Together, we build a strong community of collaborators working to break down barriers and ensure students can achieve their full potential,” Berger said. 

LDA honored Cindy Silvert with the Samuel Kirk Educator of the Year Award for being a strong and compassionate ally to her students with learning disabilities and their parents for eight years. Silvert is currently working with Woodward Academy’s Transition Program Director to build a structured, explicit executive functioning curriculum. This award is given in memory of Dr. Samuel A. Kirk, a pioneer in the field of special education. 

“I am excited and honored to accept the Sam Kirk Teacher of the Year Award from the Learning Disabilities Association, an organization that has been supporting and advocating for students with learning disabilities for nearly 60 years.  As teachers seek to support all students in these unprecedented times, it is reassuring to know that the LDA provides encouragement and recognition for teachers, as well,” Silvert said. 

Finally, LDA honored Dr. Scott Decker with its first ever PAB (Professional Advisory Board) Distinguished Service Award for Research and Practice.  Dr. Decker is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Carolina.  In addition to serving as an LDA Professional Advisory Board member, Dr. Decker has made significant contributions to research for advancing policy and procedures for identifying children with learning disabilities using evidence-based methods. His research has contributed to translating neuroscientific research in learning to benefit children in an educational context.

“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award from LDA,” said Decker. “I’m very proud to be part of an organization that has such an important impact on children with learning disabilities and serve as vital advocates for the families of these children.”    

LDA is a national, member-based, nonprofit organization committed to advancing opportunities for individuals with learning disabilities through support, education, and advocacy.

Helping Students Cope With Returning to School After Winter Break

An Educator and Parent Perspective

For Educators:

The holiday season is wonderful for many, but like all anticipated events, good things come to an end. Vacations are over, exciting activities are behind us, and it is time to move forward. For some of our children and for some of us, there may have been disappointments that the holidays weren’t what we expected.  

As we work with children in our classrooms, we must proceed with caution in our activities because we can’t assume that the holidays were pleasant for everyone.  Perhaps a child was looking forward to a specific gift, but he didn’t get it because the family was short on money. Perhaps the child was hoping to see a grandparent, but the loved one was sick and couldn’t come to a celebration. Maybe the family was planning a trip and had to cancel due to the weather.  

We, as educators, are in a balancing act. We want to hear about all the fun children had but need to be sensitive that not all children had a good time.  We want to give all the children the opportunity to be heard but don’t want to encourage bragging that can be insensitive to those who can’t think of anything to brag about. As much as possible, we must try to meet with children privately to find out what they liked about the holiday or what they wished was different so we can plan accordingly to meet their needs.

You might ask all of the students to describe someone they met over the vacation, a favorite food they had, what was their favorite conversation with someone, and what was a book or show they liked. Ask them to think about their wish to return to school.

Ask children who don’t like to share verbally to write in their journals or draw a picture to describe their time off.

If you sense that they are angry about something that happened, make sure you build in time for them to talk with the social worker or counselor.

Here are some other helpful hints:

  1. Start their first day back with something the children like to do.  If they have varying things in which they have a strong interest, give them 2-3 choices of an activity that they do well and prefer.
  2. Remember that children had a different schedule when they were off, so it will be hard to get them back into the school routine. Don’t expect them to have the stamina they had before the break. They may have been staying up late and sleeping in the morning.  To come back to school, they had to get up at the crack of dawn. 
  3. Remember that children had different schedules or routines, so you will need to give frequent breaks, build in more movement activities, and periodically intersperse easy tasks. Plan short activities and try to limit assignments that may take a long time to do.
  4. Review expectations by posting them, creating a game about them, and frequently reinforcing students following the rules.  
  5. Teach the students the social skills you expect.  Don’t expect that children will remember how to behave in specific situations. 
  6. Keep directions limited to one step, and make sure you use vocabulary in those directions that are clear to the students.  Remember that their ability to process oral directions may be delayed, and you may have to give visual cues and reminders.
  7. Remember that cognitive flexibility—the ability to move from one activity to another—may have decreased over break, so recognize that transitions from one activity to another may be tough. Allow more time and give more prompts for moving from one activity to another.

Many children will be glad to be back in the structure, routine, and comfort you provide them. Let them know that you are glad they are back and that you are there to help them get back into the swing of school activities.

Parent/Caregiver Perspective

The winter holiday break for students is always a happy time because it means no school for two whole weeks! For a student with anxiety, it is especially a joyful time as they can stay home and not need to set the alarm and go to a place that gives them the most anxiety, school. For the parent or caregiver, it is also a well-deserved time off, as it can be stressful during the school year.

Any break, let alone a two-week break, can be challenging for someone with anxiety. They can find themselves in an up-and-down mood when thinking about being away from their biggest anxiety-inducing surroundings. Instead of enjoying the much needed time off, they are anticipating the break coming to an end. The negative thoughts start to creep in, and before you know it, it’s time to go back to school. They might find themselves missing out on any fun activities planned and not entirely giving themselves time to relax during the time off. 

A parent or caregiver with a child with anxiety knows all too well the mental barrage of negative thoughts their child is having. They know it takes baby steps to prepare for the upcoming return of jumping back into the routine. 

The following are suggestions to help prepare for the return to school after the long break. 

  1. To help with the transition, it is essential to talk with any school personnel involved with your child. It can be their Case Manager, the Special Education Coordinator, School Psychologist, or their Counselor. Let them know the difficulties the student has after a long break. This is also important to discuss with your child’s teachers at the beginning of the year. It will take time to ease them into the schedule they left behind a couple of weeks earlier. 
  2. A student with a mental health issue should have that noted in their IEP. Steps should be listed on how best to support the child while at school. 
  3. Be patient while they navigate the overwhelming pressure to settle back into their routine. 
  4. Talk with your child and make a plan for the return of going back to school. What does your first day back look like? Will you walk them into school? Will you have someone come to your car and meet your child? 
  5. Make sure they are going to bed at their regular time to avoid having them thrown off of their schedule. 
  6. If you can, have lunch with them when they return to school; seeing you will help calm them and let them know you will be there when they get home. 
  7. Children with anxiety need something to look forward to. It could be as small as going to the park or taking them to their favorite store to walk around. 


Bev Johns, Behavior Consultant and President of LDA Illinois

Rachel Krueger, Director of Affiliate Relations

LDA of America Mental Health Committee Members

Depression: From LDA’s Mental Health Committee

LDA’s Mental Health Committee fights stigma, provides support, educates the public, and advocates for individuals with learning disabilities who also struggle with mental health issues. This month we are focusing on depression.

Characteristics of Depression: 

  • Changes in eating patterns, sleeping patterns, energy levels, and inability to pay attention
  • Reduced pleasure and motivation to pursue rewards
  • Feeling sad or uninterested in things they enjoyed
  • Not wanting to do fun things
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Persistent sadness

Facts About Depression: 

  • 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression
  • For children aged 3-17 years with behavior problems, more than 1 in 3 also have anxiety (36.6%), and about 1 in 5 also have depression (20.3%)
  • 1 in 6 U.S. children aged 2–8 years (17.4%) had a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder
  • Diagnoses of depression and anxiety are more common with increased age


  • Individuals with depression need to feel they are of value to others, so projects like community service or peer tutoring may help
  • Provide a curriculum of hope that includes positive materials, stresses talents, and encourages writing or drawing as an outlet
  • Incorporate upbeat music throughout the day
  • Provide opportunities for exercise
  • Provide a sense of belonging


Anxiety: From LDA’s Mental Health Committee

Since 1949, May has been the designated month for Mental Health Awareness. Each year LDA joins the movement to help fight stigma, provide support, educate the public, and advocate for individuals with learning disabilities who also struggle with mental health issues. This month we are focusing on anxiety.

Characteristics of Anxiety: 

  • Students with anxiety may have difficulty processing information because they are preoccupied with worries and fears. They may not be attending to what is being said to them or what they are seeing. 
  • They may have difficulty regulating their emotions and may have problems with executive function because they are overwhelmed by the worries surrounding them.  
  • Students may experience or complain of health issues such as stomachaches and headaches.

Facts About Anxiety: 

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older. 
  • Anxiety disorders affect 25.1% of children between 13 and 18 years old.
  • Research shows that untreated children with anxiety disorders are at higher risk of performing poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and engage in substance abuse. 
  • Anxiety disorders also often co-occur with other disorders such as depression and ADHD.
  • Childhood Anxiety Disorders: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder


  • Relaxation: What the body needs is a daily practice of a relaxation technique – like deep breathing, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, imagery – that has a physical effect on the mind. These techniques help to send a message to the entire body to let go and loosen up. The use of screen time to “relax” can actually increase anxiety or provide only temporary relaxation.
  • Get enough sleep, nourishment, and exercise
  • Connect with others: Doing things with others helps to deepen our bonds, allowing us to feel supported and secure. It also gives you someone to talk to who cares about you, and that can help you feel more understood and better able to cope. 
  • Connect with nature: Going for a walk in the park, a hike in the woods, or a bike ride can help anyone feel peaceful and grounded. 
  • Pay attention to the good things: A great way to keep our minds off the “worry track” is to focus our thoughts on things that are good, beautiful, and positive.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 
  • Psychoeducation Tools