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LDACON 2024 Recap

Jennifer and Amy from the Dysgraphia Life team were able to attend and pressent at this

year's Learning Disabilities Assocation of America Annual Conference (LDACON). Here are a few key takeaways:

Jennifer King and Amy Copeland from Dysgraphia Life at LDACon
  • Dysgraphia Life's talk was about how to design family-centered research studies, related to our project on Building Capacity for Dysgraphia Research. You can access the handouts from our talk here:

Dysgraphia Life LDA 2024 Final Handouts
Download PDF • 2.90MB

  • A presenter from Turkey discussed needs around assistive technology that seem to mirror many other settings around the world. There was a huge need for teacher training on assistive technology. They found that elementary teachers expressed more readiness than teachers of students in older grades. The study pointed to needed research on what methods are working best for teachers and students.

Slide on the Science of Reading showing education, neuroscience, linguistics, and psychology as puzzle pieces that fit together
  • A keynote on the science of reading from University of Florida Literacy Institute discussed how to critically assess evidence. Importantly, they stressed that research from the fields of education, psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience all need to go into the the science of how one reads and understands language. This will also be true for writing and understanding dysgraphia.

  • Polly Benson, an OT behind the LegiLiner stamps, gave a nice talk about handwriting help. She talked to 5 C's of handwriting instruction: Correct Formation, Consistency, Control, Comfort, and Confidence as well as the importance of multi-sensory approaches and making the work motivational and fun. She also mentioned LegiLiner stamps and practicing handwriting formation. She uses "the bad fish was talking" (bdfhtlk) for instruction on the only letters that should touch the top line.

  • A talk on race, disability, and punishment showed that black students (both boys and girls) are vastly overrepresented in school punishments and students with disabilities have even higher rates. Often students are referred for threat assessment for unusual or “non-compliant behavior” when instead they should be evaluated for disabilities as defined by IDEA. The talk also noted that kids and culture have changed over time, but education has not changed/evolved in similar ways.

  • A talk on how to advocate as a parent/caregiver showed that it is common for kids to get caught in the multi-tier support system (MTSS) and never end up getting evaluated for a disability. They suggested that 8 weeks is a reasonable period to try an intervention before assessing its effectiveness and moving to disability evaluation. The presenter stressed that verbal conversations are hard to prove and words need to be explicit: written documentation is critical and use the word "evaluation". Also, a 504 plan doesn’t provide the same level of objective progress monitoring as having an IEP, so it is important to look at other reports to make sure the student has the proper access to education.

Opening slide from LDACON. Picture of Sunglasses and the words "61st Learning Disabilities Assocation of America International Conference"

  • Another keynote spoke to challenges for multi-lingual learners. Learning a culture is embedded in learning a language and can cause extra layers of difficulty. Many classroom behaviors and performance issues associated with learning problems  are actually manifestations of multi-language learners during classroom instruction as they learn the language and culture. It is common for students learning a language to be slow to begin or finish tasks, forgetful, inattentive, hyperactive, impulsive, distractible, disruptive, and disorganized. All of these behaviors can be mistaken for learning problems when they are really related to language fluency, understanding norms and rules of social behavior, or frustration at not being able to understand.

  • A researcher at the ChildMind Institute talked about their efforts to better diagnose graphomotor and handwriting challenges and screen for dysgraphia. In their healthy brain network study, they are now using the WIAT Written Expression subtests and digital graphomotor and handwriting tasks including the Groove Pegboard Test (GPT) which assess fine-motor skilss without writing and a Spiral Tracing Test. Over time, they hope to develop tools to more effectively assess graphomotor skills in developmental disorders. Along with the talks, we were also able to meet many people and make some great connections. Thanks to LDA (and our local LDA Virginia chapter) for hosting us. We hope to be back next year with more data to present!

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