Charting the Path to Every Child Reading

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.

Amy and Olivia Traynor

Amy Traynor, OTR, M.A., ATP, National Center for Learning Disabilities Texas Parent Advisory Council Lead

“Livvy speak” is the endearing term coined for the innocent one-off names or descriptions spoken by my daughter, Olivia, when she was in preschool. We adored it and rarely corrected her.

As a pediatric occupational therapist (OT), I recognized that all children, even siblings, develop differently. It didn’t surprise me that she has done things differently than her brother and they have approached “life” differently from the other.

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Reservation, Risk, and Relief: Finding My Way to Advocacy

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.

Lia Beatty

By Lia Beatty, Whitman College student

My self-advocacy is a choice. Not a choice I wanted to make, but one I had to make and continue to make every day.

The journey was provoked by a defining moment in my first year of college. A psychologist told me, referring to my recently diagnosed attention deficit disorder (ADD)—and not-yet identified dyslexia—that I would “just have to settle with being less than,” a feeling I had already felt for so long.

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The Unexpected Lesson COVID-19 Taught Me About LD & ADHD

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.
Susan Reynolds

by Susan Reynolds, National Center for Learning Disabilities field organizer

Like many parents, I woke up on March 13 with a notification from my son’s school district: school was canceled for the day. As I read through the news that morning, I had a strange feeling wash over me. My instincts were telling me that schools were getting ready to close for in-person learning for an undetermined amount of time.

I remember saying to my husband, “I’m ADHD and so is our son, and we both have learning disabilities. I work from home, and now our son will be learning from home, too. We need to sit down and figure out a better schedule.”

We started to plan as best we could.

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Options and Choice: One Size Does Not Fit All

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities/ADHD/Dyslexia Awareness Month

Sheryl Goldstein, parent of children with learning disabilities

Sheryl Goldstein

Blog by: Sheryl L. Goldstein, a parent advocate


I grew up with a learning disability (LD). It isn’t a secret, but I don’t normally share such personal information with everyone. I’ve grown to understand that the learning disability is only part of a student’s challenge.

I didn’t let my disability stop me from achieving many goals, although my educational issues created insecurities that led me to believe I wasn’t able to achieve at times. This belief caused me to feel down about myself, and that, in turn, led to poor self-esteem.

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In Pursuit of a Dream

NOTE:  October is Learning Disabilities/ADHD/Dyslexia Awareness Month

Picture of Savannah

This blog is written by Savannah Treviño-Casias, a member of the Young Adult Leadership Council of the National Center for Learning Disabilities


My dream is to be a clinical mental health counselor!

I built my whole college experience around a plan to go to graduate school right after I completed my bachelor’s degree in psychology. Achieving that dream has been filled with challenges and many ups and downs.

You see, I have dyscalculia, a math learning disability. This disability requires me to be an advocate for myself in both school and life.

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OSERS Application Assistance for 2019 Grant Competition: 84.326M


Competition:

Model Demonstration Projects for Early Identification of Students with Dyslexia in Elementary School

CFDA:

84.326M

The U.S. Department of Education is committed to attracting as many qualified applicants as possible for its discretionary grant competitions. The Department is also committed to an equitable and transparent application process. OSERS is, therefore, providing to interested applicants technical assistance on the application process and application requirements for this competition.

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Teaching English Learner Students with Disabilities

Erica Sommer

Erica Sommer is a special education teacher in Del Valle Independent School District, which serves students in and around Austin, Texas.

Sommer works closely with the district’s substantial English learner population, has almost 15 years of teaching experience and has been passionate about teaching for as long as she remembers. She shared with us how working with English learner students and those with disabilities has impacted her as a teacher and individual.

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Erica Sommer
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Special Education Teacher Del Valle Independent School District, Del Valle, Texas

October and Disability Awareness

ICYMI "In Case You Missed It!"

In addition to announcing OSEP’s new director, Laurie VanderPloeg, and interviewing Caryl Jaques at Little One’s University preschool, this October, we highlighted aspects of disability awareness for National Disability Employment, Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, ADHD, and Down Syndrome!

Check out the stories below:

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My Truth About Dyslexia―What I Wish for Other Kids With Dyslexia and Their Parents

Douglas Rawan II, a sixth-grader with dyslexia

Douglas Rawan II, a sixth-grader with dyslexia

Note: October is Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month


My name is Douglas Rawan II. I am 11-years-old, live in Massachusetts, and I have a story about dyslexia.

It starts back in fourth grade when I began to feel different than my friends in school. Making jokes was the way I would cover up having no confidence in school. No one knew that inside I felt stupid. I remember one day when my mom asked me to do some reading and writing, and I threw pencils on the floor and my book. I remember my mom looked really sad. Inside I knew it would be too hard, but I didn’t know why. Since Kindergarten, my mom hired tutors to help with reading, but nothing changed at school. I also had a hard time focusing at school until one day I came home and told my mom that I asked the assistant principal for a standing desk. My parents didn’t even know what that was.

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A Teacher’s Perspective on Advancing Dyslexic Education

Note: October is Learning Disabilities/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Awareness Month.

Alison Pankowski

Alison Pankowski

Alison Pankowski currently trains teachers in her New Jersey district in the Wilson Reading System and is an International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Certified Dyslexia Therapist. She is the current Vice President of the New Jersey branch of the IDA.  Mrs. Pankowski was a contributing member to the New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook, released in September 2017.


As a dyslexia specialist in my school district, I build the knowledge base of my colleagues regarding early identification, structured literacy intervention and essential accommodations for students with dyslexia.

I explain, often, that:

  • “Yes, you can identify students at risk for dyslexia as early as five years old.”
  • “Yes, teachers should provide instruction in phonemic awareness in second grade to continue to build reading skills.”
  • “No, using audiobooks is not a crutch; it provides access to grade-level text for struggling readers and levels the playing field.”

While it is true that legislative efforts in my home state of New Jersey have helped to bring these types of conversations to the local school level, there is still much work to be done to ensure that our state dyslexia laws, enacted in 2013 and 2014, are implemented effectively.

There are still many persistent misconceptions about dyslexia, and much of the implementation gap exists because professionals cannot act upon what they do not know or understand.

The truth is higher education often does not include coursework on dyslexia in teacher preparation programs, so local education agencies must either figure out how to build capacity or wait until guidance is provided.

But where would this guidance come from?

In New Jersey, I was invited to join a group of individuals tasked with creating dyslexia guidance. This group consisted of practitioners with expert knowledge in the field of dyslexia, including learning disabilities teacher consultants, speech and language pathologists, psychologists, higher education professors, assistive technology experts, parents and N.J. Department of Education representatives.

New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook

New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook

We worked together for more than 19 months to create the “New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook” with the intent to:

  • Build an understanding of dyslexia and related difficulties with written language;
  • Demonstrate how to identify and remediate students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties; and
  • Inform both educators and families in best practices to support students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties.

We met monthly to discuss how to best provide this understanding and specialized knowledge without overwhelming or alienating educators and families.

Our meetings involved thoughtful, often passionate conversations about what we had experienced or had heard from others around the state; both positive and negative, regarding how schools had chosen to implement the laws passed by the state.

Usually these discussions resulted in written revisions to chapters drafted on early screening, intervention, assessment, accommodations and assistive technology. These discussions then led to more discussions and more revisions!

As committee members with experience in the field, we met with educators and families across the state throughout the process to learn more about what guidance they were seeking and to assure them that it would be coming soon. We worked diligently to craft a resource that would provide best practices to meet the needs of their struggling readers.

The N.J. Department of Education released “The New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook: A Guide to Early Literacy Development & Reading Struggles” Sept. 25, 2017—just in time for Dyslexia Awareness Month in October.

My hope is that this handbook will be a giant step forward in closing the gap between the research on dyslexia and the implementation of best practices in the school and classroom.


Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Alison Pankowski
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Alison Pankowski is an International Dyslexia Association (IDA) Certified Dyslexia Therapist and is the current Vice President of the New Jersey branch of the IDA.