October and Disability Awareness — 2019

ICYMI "In Case You Missed It!"

Throughout October, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services 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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Words of Advice from a Triple Threat

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

Alyssia Jackson

This blog is written by Alyssia Jackson, a member of the Young Adult Leadership Council of the National Center for Learning Disabilities


One of the scariest experiences in life is finding a job after college. Sometimes it felt like the more I applied, the more I got rejected. I struggled with finding the right job. You see, I am a woman of color with a learning disability and society also sees me as presenting with a physical disability.

I grappled with whether I should identify myself as having a disability on applications. I did not know if checking that box would cost me an interview, and many times, it felt like it did. Once during an in-person interview, I remember being asked if I had “gotten into a car accident recently”. At that time, I explained my learning disability, and the response was “does that mean you can’t read?”

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My Ever-Evolving Journey: Mom, Advocate, Board of Education Member

Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Dria, Mom and Sister

by Dria Law, Moorestown, N.J.


I am the mom of two teenaged girls, one of whom has a disability.

My youngest daughter, Julianna, or Juls for short, was born with Down syndrome, and like many parents of a child with a disability, I found myself thrust into a whole new world. This world revolved around early intervention services, medical appointments, and learning as much as I possibly could about Down syndrome. I was discovering early-on that not only would I need to be Jul’s parent, but also her advocate.

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Blue, Purple and Green: How I Color Coded my Child Into Middle School

Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

Zoe – my color coded sixth grader with mosaic Down syndrome

Zoe – my color coded sixth grader with mosaic Down syndrome

By Suzanne Wingard, Director of Training, Family Connection of SC


Color has always been a part of organization in my life – from taking notes in school to sorting training handouts at work. It has visually simplified even the most complex tasks mainly because I am a visual learner. Luckily, so is my daughter.

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Flipping the Script on my Limitations

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

Julia Kaback

This blog is written by Julia Kaback, a member of the Young Adult Leadership Council of the National Center for Learning Disabilities


When I was a child, I dreamed of working at the National Park Service and when an entry-level position became available, I applied for it immediately. After my interview, I had to start thinking about the words I would use to describe my learning disability if given a job offer.

Good news, I got the job!

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Julia Kaback
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Member, Young Adult Leadership Council, National Center for Learning Disabilities

“Voices from the Field” Interview with Theresa Jones, Director of Clinical Instruction and Speech/Language Services at Central Michigan University


May is Better Hearing & Speech Month


Jones Theresa

Theresa Jones, M.S., CCC-SLP is the Director of Clinical Instruction and Speech/Language Services at Central Michigan University (CMU). Theresa has been a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for over 20 years. She received her Master’s degree in speech-language pathology from Howard University where she specialized in infant and toddler service delivery. She received her bachelor degree from Northwestern University in speech-language pathology. Before becoming the Director of the CMU Speech-Language Pathology clinic, Theresa worked as a clinical educator for 13 years and as an SLP with individuals through the lifespan in a variety of settings.


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Theresa Jones thumbnail
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Director, Clinical Instruction and Speech/Language Services, Central Michigan University

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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Learning About My LD: Accepting My Challenges & Finding My Voice

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

Lena McKnight

Lena McKnight was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in Harlem, New York. She attended public school in New York City until 10th grade and later enrolled in a YouthBuild program where she achieved a High School Equivalency Diploma. Lena then went on to graduate with an associate’s degree and later a bachelor’s degree in Theatre and Sociology in May 2017. Lena has served as a Student Advocate for 10th graders through the Harlem Children Zone and remains involved with YouthBuild. She now works full time and devotes her career to serving kids in her community. Lena is committed to using her voice to have a positive impact on the field of education and on society at large.

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Public Charter School Founded to Provide Excellent Reading Instruction to All

Strong Foundations School logo

Assistant Secretary Johnny Collett and Deputy Assistant Secretary Kim Richey visited Strong Foundations Charter School during the 2018 Back-to-School Tour.

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


Seven years ago, one of my former students came to visit me and see the school I helped to found, Strong Foundations Charter School, a public charter school formed to provide excellent reading instruction to all students.

My former student was home from college where he majored in music and also played in two successful bands nearby. As we walked through the halls, he saw the elementary students working, some of whom were in Orton-Gillingham class—a structured reading approach to help students learn to read. I remarked that if he had been in a school like this, he might not have had to struggle so much with reading when he was younger.

His reply was bittersweet to me. “If I had been to a school like this, I might have been able to be your friend sooner.”

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