Learning Disabilities Workshop 2018 in Mumbai, India has finished with a total of 9 hours of learning, 96 participants, 4 institutional hosts, and 10 speakers. “Today was magical,” said a participant. Dr. Neeraj Mandhana from the Next Genius Foundation launched the day with a welcome and orientation to the inherent potential of learning, especially learning differently.
The keynote speaker, Dr. George Hagerty of Beacon College, emphasized the correlational factors of success for students with learning disabilities, including community connection, self-awareness and self-advocacy, and a caring mentor.
Dr. Laura Vanderberg guided the day’s session with an introduction to inclusion in the United States, including the importance of language as a cultural lens, philosophical approaches, major pieces of legislation, diagnostic implications, educational practices, and student impact over the last 40 years.
Judy Bass of Bass Educational Services and Dr. Lynn Abrahams of Curry College gave a theoretical, research-based, and practical overview to learning differences, including major functional differences and the primary diagnostic profiles for language-based LD, AD/HD, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. They wove in student strengths and challenges, individual student exemplars, and practical strategies.
Doug Cotter of the Gow School detailed k-12 supports for students with language-based learning differences, highlighting phonics-based instruction like Orton-Gillingham, the outcomes of homogeneous interventions, the importance of executive functions development, and the benefits of boarding school experiences in multiple domains of development: social, psychological, cognitive, and academic.
Judy Bass coordinated a higher education panel, including panelists from Beacon College (Dale Herold and Dr. Oksana Hagerty) and Curry College (Keith Robichaud, Dr. Lynn Abrahams, and Dr. Laura Vanderberg), to explore the general scope of learning environments in postsecondary settings, the models for service delivery, the role of learning specialists in supporting student development, and also facilitated participant questions regarding the specific implications of cognitive science and special education for students in k-16.
Dale Herold of Beacon College and Keith Robichaud of Curry College gave an overview of the application process for higher education and the specifics for students who learn differently. They answered participant inquiries regarding specific paths and requirements for students.
Dr. Neeraj Mandhana coordinated a parent panel with two mothers of students from Mumbai who were diagnosed with learning differences. The mothers reflected on their children’s learning struggles, the process of diagnosis, the family response to diagnosis, educational opportunities, and the learning potential. One mother said, “I wish I had known. I wish I had understood my daughter’s struggles. I was so hard on her. I was so critical. I didn’t understand.” One mother said, “I wish my son was diagnosed earlier. Teachers told us he was lazy, that he needed to concentrate harder, to focus more, and we didn’t know how to help him.”
Following the formal sessions, participants stayed to ask questions and build relationships with the institutional hosts. As hosts, we learned a great deal about perceptions of and experiences with learning differences in India. We were honored to hear about educators’ concerns, practices, frustrations, hopes, and questions. We were humbled to share a small portion of the development of civil rights legislation, shift towards inclusion in the U.S. model, current understanding of the neurological bases and cognitive profiles of learning differences, scientifically-based approaches to interventions, best practices for educational settings, and opportunities for students in responsive k-16 settings. We look forward to continued connections and relationships with our new Indian colleagues.
Good-by only for now from LD Workshop 2018, educators sessions.