Dysgraphia Life was raising #dysgraphiaawareness at the Learning Disabilities Association of America Annual Conference in Las Vegas. Our Founder, Jennifer C. King, PhD and Board Member, Amy Copeland, MPH co-presented on "Understanding Dysgraphia and Learning from the Community," discussing the different definitions of dysgraphia, how to provide support and resources, and how we are working with all of you to understand needs and address gaps. We received a lot of positive feedback. It was the only talk focused on dysgraphia and there were a lot of people happy to see that we were talking about 'more than just messy handwriting'!
We also were able to meet a lot of great potential partners and to learn from many other presentations. Here are some takeaways that could be helpful:
Katy Vassar from Wimberly Dyslexia & Learning Center spoke on "The Power of a Writing Sample" and echoed many of our own recommendations about the importance of understanding an individual student's strengths and weaknesses when designing support. She suggested analyzing a writing sample for phonological, orthographical and morphological spelling, mechanics including handwriting flunecy punctuation, and capitalization, and language (semantics and syntax). Then, using that information, targeted support can be provided to the student.
There were a number of talks on Executive Function. George McCloskey provided a keynote describing learning and producing disabilities, with similarities to the webinar he gave for us. Peter Isquith talked about improving executive function using research based methods. He suggested the framework of "Goal - Plan - Do - Review". Michael Greschler and Shelly Levy discussed strengthening the skill of thinking flexibly. They demonstrated writing exercises where you re-write a piece with a shifted perspective - a new purpose, audience, and/or perspective. (As we pointed out the next day in our talk, dysgraphic students could do the same exercise verbally to strengthen this skill.)
Julie Washington spoke to reaching all learners and the importance of cultural sensitivity. Notably, she highlighted that the current evaluation methods were not tested on Black or Brown people or students that learned other langugages first. This is one component of the underdiagnosis that we see in many communities. She also stressed the importance of understanding dialects and how that is incorporated into language education.
Fern Goldstein presented on "unboring grammar" and why she teaches the function of parts of speech, not memorizing the names of the parts of speech. She urged the crowd to make grammar functional, personal, and fun and to remember that student ownership of their work is powerful.
Lydia Brown spoke on disrupting ableism and setting inclusive expections. She stressed how we each function in different ways and need different types of “scaffolding” or support.
And those were just a few of the highlights! In addition to three days of great talks, there were also a lot of networking opportunities and the Dysgraphia Life team got to meet a lot of people at events and in the exhibit hall. We also were able to meet with the Board and members of the Learning Disabilities Association of Virginia chapter to talk about collaborative work in our state. We will be highlighting some of LDA-VA's work and vice-verse in the coming months.
Thanks to LDA for putting on a great conference and we hope to be back next year to continue to raise awareness and help our community of people with learning disabilities in written expression.