In late January, Dysgraphia Life attended the Science to Practice conference held by Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA).
This conference was focused on the science behind learning disabilities and was targeted at practitioners such as school psychologists, neuropsychologists, speech and language pathologists, special educators, and other professionals involved in identifying and diagnosing learning disabilities or intervening with individuals with learning disabilities. Here were some of our key takeaways related to dysgraphia:
Dr. Steven Feifer spoke about diagnosing dysgraphia, the different types of writing disabilities, areas of the brain that are responsible, and evidence-based practices to help students. This talk was directed at practitioners, but Dr. Feifer will be giving a free webinar for parents in the Dysgraphia Life community on March 3, 2021. We encourage you to register!
Dr. George McCloskey gave an excellent lecture on executive control and "producing disabilities" including how they are relevant to the process of writing. He broke Executive Control down into to big categories: Executive Function (knowing what/when or "supervisors") vs. Executive Skills (knowing how or "workers"). Skills can be practiced until they are automatic but the supervisory component of knowing what and when to do things can not. Writing requires a lot of executive control. Some behavioral indicators of problems with executive control when writing are: resistance to generating topics, avoidance of writing, not being able to stay engaged while writing, difficulty organizing thoughts, difficulty editing, and forgetting ideas.
Drs. DuPaul and Alfonso spoke about Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They reviewed the ADHD literature and how it is very common for ADHD to be a "comorbid condition" with (occurring along with) other specific learning disabilities. This includes learning disability of written expression, which in multiple studies had comorbidity rates around 60%. Studies show that it is important to address both the attention and underlying learning issues for students to have optimal academic performance. For example, stimulant medications for ADHD could be accompanied by training on organization and explicit, systematic language instruction.
Dr. Virginia Berninger talked about differential ways to diagnose dyslexia, dysgraphia, and oral and written language disorders. She cited research on how dysgraphia and other learning disabilities are associated distinct genetic differences. She also stressed the importance of multi-sensory instruction (by ear, eye, mouth and hand).
Dr. Linda Silverman spoke about identifying twice-exceptional (2e) students. Notably, she mentioned that it is common for 2e students to think that handwriting is the most difficult academic task. Often these students brains are working faster than they can write their thoughts on paper.
In general, there was a lot of interesting research presented and we applaud LDA for hosting this new conference all about the science of learning disabilities. We look forward to bringing you more conference updates in the future.