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A message from LDAA President Kaci Smith

As President of Arkansas LDA, it was my honor and privilege to represent our state at the National LDAA Conference held in February in Baltimore. There were over 150 sessions presented by leaders from all over the world in the continuous development of Learning Disability and ADHD research and education.  State Affiliate President’s met daily to share ideas concerning a common agenda.  One recurrent theme took form: “WE ARE ALL STAKEHOLDERS.”

Have you heard the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child?’ Although I have heard it used for some time now, it was brought back to life in 1996 when then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton published the book “It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.”  As a teacher of students with special needs and a parent of a child with Autism, I believe today we need more than a Village; we need Stakeholders.

The term stakeholder refers to anyone who is invested in the welfare and success of a school and its students, including administrators, teachers, staff members, students, parents, families, community members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as school board members, city councilors, and state representatives. Stakeholders may also be collective entities, such as local businesses, organizations, advocacy groups, committees, media outlets, and cultural institutions.1  

LDA of Arkansas is devoted to this mindset by assisting parents and educators in the following ways:  

-We are Stakeholders! We strive to help parents understand the spectrum of disorders known as Learning Disabilities;

-We are Stakeholders! We strive to instruct parents/teachers on best research based practices for instruction both in the home and the classroom;

-We are Stakeholders! We strive to raise awareness of environmental factors that can harm brain development;

-We are Stakeholders! We strive to promote opportunities for success for all person’s with Learning Disabilities;

-We are Stakeholders! We strive to promote legislation that does not limit the rights of people with disabilities but strengthens their voice.  

My board members want you to get the most out of LDA. We are constantly working to make this information more accessible to you through our website and our Facebook. Give us a like! Share our posts! Send us an email! Or better yet, join us! We are all Stakeholders!  


1Hidden curriculum (2014, August 26). In S. Abbott (Ed.), The glossary of education reform. Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/hidden-curriculum 



Ralph G. Norman Scholarships Awarded

July 8, 2016

The Ralph G. Norman Scholarship was recently awarded to three Arkansas students by the Learning Disabilities Association of Arkansas.

The scholarship is awarded annually to Arkansas residents with documented learning disabilities to attend a university, two-year community college, or a vocational/technical training program.

The 2016 scholarship winners are:

Emily Denny

Emily Denny, a 2016 graduate of Little Rock Christian Academy, will attend the University of Arkansas this fall. She wants to use her passion for art and sign language to become a teacher and help other students who struggle to learn.

“I had always thought it was my own fault for always feeling left behind in my thoughts, always behind everyone else in problems, and always still trying to memorize things that just didn’t stick,” Denny wrote in her application. “I had thought I needed to just get on track and step it up. When I learned that this issue was not my own but instead the way I was created, I had a great relief and more self-worth.”

Denny says one of her personal goals is never to use her disability as an excuse not to do something. Kris Bower, Denny’s teacher at Little Rock Christian Academy, applauds her student’s determination.

"Emily’s self-awareness of both her strengths and weaknesses and her motivation to be her very best have empowered her," said Denny’s Little Rock Christian Academy teacher Kris Bower. “She consistently displays a principled example to those around her. I have personally witnessed her in situations where she could easily have been dishonest to gain an advantage, but the thought never occurred to her.” 

Kaylee Parrish

Kaylee Parrish, a 2016 graduate of Marked Tree High School, will attend the Arkansas State University-Beebe this fall. Parrish hopes to become an early childhood special education teacher.

“I use my disability as a motivation for my future,” Parrish said. “I believe kids like myself need to know at a young age that they are valued, and that they should look at their disabilities for confidence, and let their disabilities make them who they are.”

Lea Blair, Parrish’s math teacher, said she has faced hurdles throughout high school and “met them with a smile and a willingness to work.”

Parrish, a cheerleader and member of the yearbook staff, exemplifies that “nothing worthwhile comes easy and that accolades and achievements are paid for, in advance, by hours of hard work,” said Matt Wright, her principal at Marked Tree High School.

Callie Seely

Callie Seeley, a 2016 graduate of Lead Hill High School, will attend the University of Arkansas this fall and pursue her dream of becoming a pediatrician or neonatologist.

“She is very aware of her limitations, but never lets them slow her down,” said Linette Ribando, Seeley’s English teacher. “She is willing to work harder than most in order to realizer her goal. She understands very well that she may have to work harder to achieve what she has set her mind to, and she is willing to do whatever it takes in order to be successful.”

Seeley, who was involved in basketball, softball and art classes throughout high school, is well on her way to accomplishing those goals. She has already completed four online college courses through UA Monticello with perfect 4.0.



LDAA Mourns the Loss of President Nancie Payne

January 8, 2016

The Learning Disabilities Association of America announced the death of its president Nancie Payne. Payne died December 27 after a six-year battle with cancer. She would have finished her two-year term as president during the national LDAA conference in Orlando next month.

Over the years, Payne served at various levels in LDA, including being a member of the Professional Advisory Board as well as serving on several committees, such as Adult Topics (Chair), Conference Progam (Chair twice) and Support Services. She also served on the Board of the LDA of Washington state affiliate. Payne, who herself had learning disabilities, was a sought after speaker and professional development trainer across the United States and Canada in the field of adult special learning needs.

As mandated by the LDAA bylaws, First Vice President Allen Broyles succeeds Payne as the new President. Broyles is the Assistant Head of School and Middle School Principal of The Howard School, a K-12 school for students with language-based learning differences in Atlanta.


LDAA Receives $10K Donation from Little Rock Junior Departmental Club

September 22, 2015

The Learning Disabilities Association of Arkansas (LDAA), a nonprofit organization, received a $10,000 donation from the Little Rock Junior Departmental Club (JDC) at the club's first meeting for the 2015-2016 year. Representatives from the LDAA Board of Directors were present to accept the check and update the JDC members on various initiatives.

The funds were raised at JDC's annual luncheon - held last November at the Pleasant Valley Country Club. The luncheon featured a silent auction and presentation from author Jane F. Hankins. 

The relationship between LDAA and JDC began in the early 1960s when JDC elected to host their annual fundraiser benefiting LDAA. The club's fundraising projects have varied through the years from style shows at local country clubs to luncheons, teas, and silent auctions.

"LDAA is grateful for decades of support from the Junior Departmental Club. The continued genorosity and dedication of JDC allows us to offer three annual scholarships for high school students seeking higher education and numerous other resources for children and adults with learning disabilities throughout Arkansas," said Rebecca Walker, LDAA president.

JDC will hold its 2015 luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Pleasant Valley Country Club. The luncheon will feature a silent auction and presentation from Chris Norwood of Tipton & Hurst. For sponsorship opportunities, contact Anne Patillo at a.patillo@yahoo.com

LDAA to Host Central Arkansas College Transition Fair

September 16, 2015

LDAA will host a Central Arkansas Transition Fair for students with disabilities on Monday, September 21 at 6:00 PM at the Adolphine Fletcher Terry Library, 2015 Napa Valley Drive  in Little Rock. College and university disability services representatives from Pulaski Tech, UALR and UCA will be present to provide resources and answer any questions.

Parents and students are encouraged to attend.

For more information, contact Doris Pierce, LDAA VP and UPHOLD Chairperson at dpierce@uca.edu or 501-450-5166.


Ralph G. Norman Scholarships Awarded

August 12, 2015

The Ralph G. Norman Scholarships were recently awarded to three unique individuals. Each student will receive $2,500 to be applied to tuition and fees at the college or university of their choice. Included below is a bio on each of the recipients.
Tabor Andrews, UCA
Tabor Andrews, of Conway, is a freshman at the University of Central Arkansas and a 2014 graduate of Conway High
School. Tabor was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age and has made great strides in overcoming academic challenges related to his disability. 
Tabor's self confidence and understanding of his disability has impressed his teachers, classmates and members of LDAA. We are proud to award him this scholarship and look forward to watching him prosper.
Crystal Bles, UACCM
Crystal Bles, of Fairfield Bay, is a 2015 graduate of West Side High School in Greers Ferry. She will attend the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton where she plans to concentrate in welding.
Crystal, who was diagnosed with dyslexia, has worked hard to achieve success in the field of welding. This past year, she won first place in Metal Fabrications on the state level at Skills USA and finished in the top ten at nationals. Her dream is to be the first female welder to compete in the World Welding Competition and Olympics for Welding. Teachers describe Crystal as kind, helpful, willing and optimistic. We are proud to award this scholarship to such a dedicated and deserving individual.
Casey Estep, NWACC
 Casey Estep, of West Fork, is a 2015 graduate of the Archer Learning Center in Springdale. She was accepted to Northwest Arkansas Community College where she plans to major in nursing.
Casey was recently diagnosed with learning disabilities and has worked hard to become a self-advocate. One of Casey's teachers described her as a hero and praised Casey's quiet strength in overcoming homelessness, disabilities, and shyness with a vengeance. We are proud of Casey and excited to be able to assist with her educational goals.
LDAA Adds Seven to Board of Directors
August 12, 2015
LDAA is thrilled to announce the addition of seven new members to our Board of Directors. With such a diverse group of professionals from all over the state, LDAA will be in a superior position to provide supportive resources and solutions for individuals with learning disabilities.  Below is a brief bio on the new members.
Reed Claiborne, Access Consultant, University of Arkansas at Little Rock Disability Resource Center

Reed Claiborne moved to Little Rock in May of 2012 to be an access consultant at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s (UALR) Disability Resource Center. At UALR, he works with students and faculty in collaborative effort to address any barriers that impede learning. 

Reed earned his bachelor’s in speech communication and his master’s in rehabilitation counseling both from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Reed has a passion for working with students, parents and instructors on issues related to learning disabilities and has presented on learning disabilities at conferences and workshops. He serves as a board member for Ark-AHEAD.

Prior to earning his master’s, Reed worked in sales/customer service and coached youth sports. In his spare time, you might find Reed on a bicycle (mountain or road bikes), playing ice hockey, learning to play the guitar or catching up MASH reruns.
Jocelyn Davis, Transition Coordinator, Springdale Public Schools - Special Services Department

Jocelyn served as a special education teacher for 13 years before transitioning to an administrator and supervisor in the special services department of the Springdale Public School system.

Jocelyn is passionate about special education and serves as an advocate for students with learning disabilities and their parents/guardians. She believes in a collaborative effort to foster collegiality in facilitating on-going communication.  Her goal is to educate others regarding the best practices that honor the ethnic, linguistic, gender, cultural and socioeconomic characteristics of students with learning disabilities.

For the past two years, Jocelyn has served as the diversity liaison representative for the Arkansas Association of Middle Level Education (AAMLE).
Scott Gann, Parent Advocate, The Dyslexia Project – Decoding Dyslexia AR

Scott joins LDAA as a parent of a student with learning disabilities. He is involved with The Dyslexia Project, a community organization with a mission to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children, and inform policy-makers on best practices to identify, remediate and support students with dyslexia in Arkansas' schools.

In 2014, Scott was instrumental in Gov. Mike Beebe's proclamation of the month of October as dyslexia awareness month.
Cindi Holleman, Disability Services Counselor, Pulaski Technical College.

Cindi joins LDAA from Pulaski Technical College where she serves as a disability services counselor. In her role, she strives to educate and empower individuals with disabilities through accommodations that provide equal access and teaching students to advocate for themselves. Cindi has also served as a case manager and coordinator for a community-based waiver program and as a program coordinator for a residential facility for adults with developmental disabilities. Cindi earned a Master of Education in Adult Education through the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Cindi has always been passionate about serving individuals with disabilities. Prior to working in the disability field, she served as a coordinator for her employers' Special Olympics and Easter Seals events. She and her family have also served as volunteers at the Special Olympic games. Cindi is a member of New Hope Church of the Nazarene, where she has served on the board of directors.
Katelin Hornaday, Speech-Language Pathologist, Lakeside Junior High School, Springdale Public Schools

As a speech-language pathologist in Northwest Arkansas, Katelin Hornaday finds the majority of students in her caseload falling under the Specific Learning Disability category. Though she now works in the public school system, Katelin previously worked in early intervention services.  She even completed training in Lindamood-Bell techniques and uses multi-sensory techniques to assist students with reading and writing. 
Kaci Smith, Special Education Teacher, George Junior High, Springdale Public Schools

Kaci's involvement with learning disabilities encompasses both her personal and professional life. Not only does Kaci work as special educator, she is also a mother of a teenager with learning disabilities. Kaci notes that her students and her son appear to be like any of their nondisabled peers but have a daily struggle.  Her motivation is to improve collaboration with agencies and to become a better advocate for her son and her students.

A special education teacher for 21 years at the junior high level, Kaci believes the single most important part of a student's IEP is their transition plan.  She strives to help bridge this path between the school, community resources, parents and students. 
Connie Steele, Counselor, Arkansas Rehabilitation Services

Connie Steele joined the Arkansas Rehabilitation Services as a counselor in June 2014, after receiving her Masters in Rehabilitating Counseling from the University of Arkansas only a month prior. As a counselor, Connie aids clients with employment opportunities, interprets  medical and educational information, and presents information regarding disability policy. In May 2012, Connie earned her Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at the University of Central Arkansas. 

In her spare time, Connie tutors with Ozark Literacy and is able to use her advanced degree to aid individuals with learning disabilities. With her knowledge in disability legislation, experience in disability case management, and proficiency in American Sign Language, Connie is an exciting new asset to the LDAA Board.


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Did You Know

Research shows that 8 to 10 percent of American children under 18 years of age have some type of learning disability, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.