Learning Ally Blog: Access and Achievement


Now more than ever, people with learning and visual disabilities are flourishing in the classroom, launching productive careers and becoming assets in their communities. This blog spotlights remarkable individuals who demonstrate that having a visual or print disability is no barrier to educational success.

Over $7,000 in Door Prizes at Online Dyslexia Conference!
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November 20, 2016 by Mir Ali

Spotlight LogoWe are so excited about the support we are receiving from our partner organizations for our upcoming December 2nd online conference, Spotlight on Dyslexia! If you attend, you will be entered to win one of the following by earning points for participating in the conference platform: Barbara Esham, Author of Adventures of Everyday Geniuses
  • 1 signed copy of Mrs Gorski, I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets Book-signed by author 1 $10 yes
  • An Author visit from Barbara Esham for your school
  • Livescribe Echo Smart Pen with tablet paper
  • Additional Signed Books
  • 3 - $30 gift certificates for the BrainSpring Teacher’s Store gift certificates
Brookes Publishing
  •  2 - Speech to Print-Language Essentials for Teachers by Louisa Moats
  • 2 -  Speech to Print Workbook Book by Louisa Moats
Decoding Dyslexia MA and Max'Is Creations
  • 2 - Mug With a Hoop-Baseball
Don Johnston
  • Package including a copy of Don Johnston's book, Building Wings: How I Made It Through School.
  • 2 - Canvas tote bag with Drexel School of Education swag and a signed copy of Dr. Reisman’s book Creativity: A Bridge Between Education & Industry
Door PrizesEveryone Reading
  • Free admission to 44th Annual Everyone Reading conference CUNY 3/13-3/14
Gina Cooke of LEX:Linguist-Educator Exchange
  • LEX InSight Words Volume 1
  • A LEX gift card for $25
HighNoon Books
  • InfoMAG Set A, Non-fiction series of 6 books, 1st grade readability, 2-9+ grade interest level
  • Leela and Ben Mysteries, Fiction series of 5 books, 1st grade readability, 3-6 grade Interest Level
Landmark School
  • Executive Function: Foundations for Learning & Teaching by Patricia Newhall
Learning Disabilities Association of America
  • A signed copy of Jerome Schultz's book, Nowhere to Hide: Why Kids with ADHD and LD Hate School and What We Can Do About It
  • LDA Resource Guide
  • One Complimentary registration to LDA's 54th Annual International Conference 2/16 through 2/19/17 in Baltimore MD
Decoding Dyslexia Texas
  • 4 tickets to the ICE event at the Gaylord Hotel in Washington DC. Experience the magic of ICE! featuring Christmas Around the World as you walk-through larger-than-life colorful holiday displays. Enjoy more than TWO MILLION pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures kept at a chilly 9 degrees as you celebrate cultural holiday traditions from the United Kingdom, Germany and more!
  • Gift Certificate for a free Comprehensive Orton-Gillingham training
Decoding Dyslexia TN
  • Signed copy of Dyslexia Boy by Jason Oliver
Learning Ally
  • One individual Learning Ally membership new or renewal
Lorraine Donovan
  • Signed copy of A Child's Touchstone: Dyslexia Guidance for “Less than Perfect” Parents, Teachers and Pediatricians
Decoding Dyslexia USA
  • Signed copy of Integrated Decoding and Spelling Instruction Based on Word Origin and Word Structure
Mark Brugger, Conference Organizer MulitSensory Reading Center
  • 5 - A free consultation and assessment of your child’s reading level free consultation and assessment
  • Schools Dyslexia Package for 1 Year Dyslexia Quest Screening for 1 student, 1 Year Nessy Reading and Spelling, and 1 year Nessy Professional Development for 1 Teacher
Pearson Clinical Assessment
  •  KTEA-3 Form A Complete Testing Kit KTEA-3 Form A Complete Testing Kit
PQBD Jewelry
  • Silver pqbd pendant jewelry with dyslexia symbol
Project Read
  • Project Read: Report Form Process Guide guide
Empower Learning Center/See The Beauty in Dyslexia
  • Introductory SWI Class with Empower Learning Center, online or live format
Shadow Project
  • 2 - signed copy of The Boy Who Learned Upside Down
  • 1 year Sonocent Audio Notetaker License
Spelling Success
  • Spelling Success Games, 1 set of 3 spelling games
Times Tales
  • 4 - Multiplication Program for Dyslexia Times Tales DVD
  • 2 -  Book: Zone Cleaning for Kids Chore System for Kids w/Dyslexia
Vaughn Lauer
  • Signed Copy of When the School Says No, How to Get The Yes
  • 3 -Free One on One consultation with Dr. Vaughn Lauer
Wilson Language
  • Wilson Reading System Introductory 3 Day Workshop Wilson
Cozy Phones
  • Soft Fleece Purple Froggy Headphones for kids
  • Cozy Phones Paul Headphones Soft Fleece Green Froggy Headphones for kids
Learning Ally LogoIt's not too late to sign up! See the full conference agenda and save your spot by visiting LearningAlly.org/DyslexiaConference today. Spotlight on Dyslexia is live December 2nd with ability to continue watching the recorded conference until February 2nd. It's great for teacher professional development!   Read More about Over $7,000 in Door Prizes at Online Dyslexia Conference!

A Symbol for Dyslexia that Gives Back
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November 18, 2016 by Mir Ali

"Instead of trying to define dyslexia, I turned back to the commonplace myth that it is only reading backwards or in mirror image. This stylized design is inspired by the seamless dimensions of the letters p q b d, contained within an endless circle, and ready to break out." Rebecca and sonRebecca Warner, a mother and advocate, knew she wanted to create a universal symbol for awareness. She knew this was needed because she, herself, originally misunderstood what it means to be dyslexic when her own son was diagnosed. "I rolled up my sleeves, bought some flash cards, lined up some tutoring, and prepared to "fix" my quiet son of what I misunderstood as simply reading backwards (or was it in mirror images?)," says Warner. Like so many others, she soon realized dyslexia is very different than the common stereotypes. "I began researching, talking to specialists, and meeting for coffee with other parents," remembers Warner. "What I learned was my own epiphany. His struggle with decoding letters indicated a unique difference in learning... and what an amazing mind it is!" SymbolA designer, Rebecca wanted to create a symbol that would be meaningful for those on this journey. "As much as I wanted to explain dyslexia, I found myself reflecting back on my own darker days before the light of understanding." So, she began working on a symbol that will spark conversation and be used as gifts for parents, advocates, teachers and tutors. Kids with SymbolShe hopes this design will become a universal symbol for dyslexia, and she's encouraged it's already catching on! Kids across the nation are wearing the symbol on their arms to show their strength, or painting it at Decoding Dyslexia events. It's so simple, and sparks conversations. What's more, 20% of all sales for 2016-17 will go back to the non-profit organization Learning Ally, which aims to help student with print disabilities, like dyslexia, access grade-level text and feel connected to one another. Check out Rebecca's website for more information: PQBD.com  and use the code "Learning Ally" to make sure your percentage gets to us.    Read More about A Symbol for Dyslexia that Gives Back

Stuck in the Maze: An 8th Grader's Dyslexia Plea

November 14, 2016 by Mir Ali

Guest blog by Victoria, Junior High Student in Texas, Miss Teen America contestant, Learning Ally member In her own words ... Victoria at Miss America Teen I have spent my life battling dyslexia, autism, dysgraphia, sensory processing disorder, ADD/ADHD, developmental vision, and specific learning disorders. I believe students can overcome disabilities without having to bang their heads against the table for someone to listen. I am writing to help others like me. Countless opportunities were missed when class pull-outs were denied because I didn’t have a label. Did any of the labels I just told you about matter? Any one of them could have been called a rock. It took years to get all my rocks (labels). It doesn’t take a geologist to know a rock.
Imagine being fit for a triathlon, but needing someone to hold your rocks while you swim. Meanwhile, a man in a suit with his arms crossed is looking down at you saying they will only hold them as soon as your head is under the water long enough to prove you failed and will drown. That was my life.
For me, a pull-out at school was time from a para-professional to explain materials or re-read information for understanding and answer questions. In the perfect world, it’s a certified staff, but sometimes it’s just a caring person that can hold my rocks while the people that could help are tangled in red tape. They didn’t need to fully know me to offer a pull-out. Instead, the school gave me a counselor for stress. By 6th grade, my tests showed 99.8% of students could read more fluently and 94% more accurately than I could. The school labels and procedures cost us all a fortune.
The system did eventually work for me. I am now an 8th grade honor roll student with no modifications. The process was brutal, but we NEVER GAVE UP.
There are so many laws and so little common sense in our “wait for failure model”. We were told, “Coordinated Early Intervening Services under the 2004 reauthorization of the IDEA allows local education agencies up to 15 percent of their IDEA funding Part B Sections 611 and 619 funds to provide scientifically based CEIS to children without a disability in grades K-12.” So, the money was there. Victoria on StageI needed a caring para to keep me from drowning until they understood me. The current guidance emphasizes whether “the child is not achieving adequately”, meeting “state-approved grade-level standards”, and “underachievement is not due to lack of appropriate instruction.” We paid dearly privately to NOT fail. The sacrifice for that was not getting help until labeled. This underfunded system is broken at the foundation because it prioritizes assistance to students not achieving at grade level standards. What about kids like me studying countless hours refusing to give up on finding a geode in my rock-pile? We don’t think it was time well spent for anyone. Help my voice be heard. We need to strengthen early intervention funding to screen for developmental delays and not exclude hard working students during the identification process for getting para-professional assistance. There are kids stuck in the maze. Learning Ally LogoLearning Ally is a national nonprofit dedicated to helping students with print disabilities, like dyslexia, succeed. We provide over 82,000 human narrated audiobooks, a teen self-advocacy program, and regular webinars for parents, students and teachers. Find out how you can get involved by visiting: LearningAlly.org/Get-Involved    Read More about Stuck in the Maze: An 8th Grader's Dyslexia Plea

Don't Let a Disability Hold You Back - Tips for Visiting a College Campus
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November 3, 2016 by Mir Ali

By Megan Dausch, Learning Ally College Success Program Mentor One of the most helpful things I did when determining which colleges to apply to, and ultimately to attend, was to plan visits to all of my top contenders. Photo of MeganBefore going to the campus, I called the admissions office to set up a tour. I also asked to meet with the Disability Student Services Office because I am blind, and I wanted to discuss the accommodations I would need. Additionally, I reviewed the websites of the colleges prior to visiting, as they often helped answer basic questions I had, figure out my more in-depth questions, or discover buildings I wanted to visit. I wrote down my questions ahead of time so that I would be sure to remember them and to write down the answers in my notes. Visiting many campuses can be overwhelming, so here are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your trip. I am writing these tips from the perspective of a student who is blind, but these are great tips for anyone with a visual or learning disability.

Take notes

If you're visiting quite a few campuses, as I did, bring your preferred note-taking device. Whether you use a braille note, iPhone with Bluetooth keyboard or braille display, or digital voice recorder, make sure you have a way of storing information and retrieving that information later. You're bound to have a lot of questions, and you can't possibly remember all of the answers and the information you receive.

Take a tour

Taking a guided tour is a great way to get a feel for the layout of the campus. Usually, guides are students, and they can often provide insight into campus life. Tour Group on CampusBefore the tour begins, introduce yourself to the tour guide and request a position at the front of the tour. This will make it easier for you to ask questions and stay with the group. You'll usually visit the main attractions of the campus, such as a freshman dorm, classroom building and dining hall. A tour will give you a general idea of how far apart buildings are. You'll want to know whether there are major streets that run through the campus, and if the campus is very large, you might even want to ask how students usually get around. Is there a campus transportation system? A tour is a great time to ask these questions and others you might have about student life, such as clubs and other weekend activities. You might feel a bit baffled by your tour; likely you’ll be walking speedily through the campus with a group of sighted students who are able to take in their surroundings at a glance. If you’re feeling confused, speak up and ask your tour guide any questions you might have about the visual environment.

Have a meal in the cafeteria

Having a quick bite to eat in a campus dining hall will not only give you a chance to taste some of the food you may be eating for the next four years, but it also will give you a moment to sit down and decompress. Take some time to mull over what you’ve learned about the campus so far. Do you have any further questions? In addition to giving you a moment to rest, eating a meal among students will provide you with an opportunity to interact with current students outside of a tour or admissions seminar. While you’re waiting in line, consider introducing yourself to a student nearby. Current students can offer more insight and perspective on the school. Finally, relaxing in the dining hall can give you a sense of whether you could picture yourself in this environment.
Sometimes, just by experiencing a place, you will know whether you can see yourself spending the next four years of your life there.

Plan some unstructured time

While campus tours and admissions meetings are extremely useful and filled with valuable information, try to plan some time when you can amble about the campus. This is also a great time to ask a family member or friend, if you have one along, to give you any visual information about the campus you might want. You never know who you might walk into while roaming around campus. When I visited the college I ultimately attended, my family and I ran into the president of the university! He invited us into his office, and we had a 45 minute conversation about the school.

Meet with the Disability Services Office

You will likely be working a great deal with your college’s DSO (Disability Services Office) to arrange exams, acquire textbooks and work out any other accommodations you need during your college career. Take some time during your campus tour to find out where the DSO is. See if you can sit down with a counselor from the office and discuss the accommodations you will require.
This will also give you an opportunity to discover whether you will need to educate the office about your disability, or whether the office staff is already familiar with the accommodations you might need.
You might want to find out what resources are already available on campus. Are the computers on campus already equipped with screen-reading software, braille displays or magnification software? Many students do not base their college decisions on the DSO, but unless you are extremely independent, the quality of a DSO can make or break your college experience.

Plan an overnight visit

If, at the end of the day, you think you might like to come back to this campus, consider planning an overnight visit. Spending a night with a student host can give you a good sense of how students spend their time outside of classes. Sometimes, you’ll even be able to attend a lecture or two. When I spent a night at my alma mater, I attended a Spanish class. I enjoyed the class so much that I remembered it when signing up for classes, and I made sure to take a class with that professor my first semester.

Review your notes

Either before you leave or as soon as possible afterwards, review and reflect upon your notes. Do you have any additional questions? Students Talking with TabletsIf so, reach out to the relevant people and see if you can get your questions answered. Think about how you felt about the school overall. Do you think you would like to come back and arrange an extended visit? Visiting many colleges sometimes feels overwhelming, but visiting campuses can play an important role in helping you make the decision that’s right for you. With some planning, the visit will enhance your picture of what it might be like to attend. When your visit is over, you’ll be able to read over your notes and reflect upon the overall experience. You’ll be more equipped to contemplate whether you’ve just visited the school of your dreams. Learning Ally LogoMegan is a mentor in Learning Ally's College Success Program, a free (donor supported) program for students who are blind or visually impaired. Find out more by visiting LearningAlly.org/CollegeSuccess.  Find out other ways you can get involved by visiting LearningAlly.org/Get-Involved  Read More about Don't Let a Disability Hold You Back - Tips for Visiting a College Campus

Eagle Scout Inspired by Max Brooks' Speech at Dyslexia Conference
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November 3, 2016 by Mir Ali

"Everybody has a part to play. Everybody can do something."

~ Max Brooks, author World War Z

Those are the words that sparked a movement - a movement that lead a North Carolina Boy Scout to "do something." Logan in Scout UniformLogan attended last year's Spotlight on Dyslexia online conference, sponsored by Learning Ally. He intently listened to Max Brooks, bestselling author of World War Z, discuss his own dyslexia and ways we can all help. Brooks was the keynote speaker at the conference. Logan decided to give back to others and leverage lessons from his personal struggles and triumphs with dyslexia to coordinate a Dyslexia Awareness Workshop as his Eagle Scout project.

"The workshop, which took place in October, included a mix of clinical and educational professionals, as well as successful career adults to discuss what it is like to live with dyslexia; explore common misperceptions, stories and personal experiences; and share tools/resources to help dyslexic students adapt and thrive," says Logan.
His main goal is to communicate to the 1 in 5 people who are dyslexic that they are not alone and help is available.  Logan feels there are some simple steps that can be integrated into our educational systems, both in terms of educator awareness/training and tools that can transform the life and experiences for dyslexic students. Logan has used a combination of approaches to best work with his dyslexia for success. Some of the most successful have been Orton-Gillingham-based reading tutoring, listening to audiobooks from Learning Ally and other resources, and using dictation software to capture his ideas and adapt from the conventional writing processes that are a struggle for many dyslexics. Logan has one big key message to other kids who have dyslexia -
“You have to own it and will live with it your whole life. Dyslexia is not something bad…it is also a huge advantage. Dyslexics are forced to think outside the box in ways that most people do not. You compensate with creativity. Once you own it, it is a lot easier to learn how to adapt and make it a positive.”
What an amazing young man! We can't wait to see where you will go in the future, Logan! Watch Max Brooks' inspirational 2015 keynote speech below, and register for the 2016 Spotlight on Dyslexia online Conference at LearningAlly.org/DyslexiaConference. We'll have 23 sessions, including keynote Dean Bragonier of NoticeAbility and educational keynote Dr. Louisa Moats who will talk about "why spelling still counts." Register today!  Read More about Eagle Scout Inspired by Max Brooks' Speech at Dyslexia Conference