The State of Learning Disabilities: A New Report

Advocacy report on learning disabilities - awareness

This report, from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, is now available for reading and can be downloaded.

The National Center for Learning Disabilities, a leading advocacy group, just came out with a report, The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. That figure, one in five, or 20 percent, refers to the number of students who have a learning disability, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. This population is very much misunderstood; all too often, these children are (mis)labeled as lazy or unmotivated or just not as smart as their peers. More often than not, these labels are untrue. Not only are these students at risk of failing school, but also they all too often struggle finding or keeping employment and are disproportionately represented in the prison population.

Despite one in five students having some sort of learning disability, according to this report, only one in 16 receive proper special-education services with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and only one in 50 receive services under Section 504.  This detailed report covers the following:

  • The neuroscience, stigma, and federal laws concerning these students
  • How to identify struggling students
  • Supporting academic success
  • The social, emotional, and behavioral challenges these students face and pose
  • Issues regarding the transitioning to life after high school
  • Recommended policies.

The report provides summaries for each state, with “key data points and comparisons to national averages in several areas such as inclusion in general education classrooms, disciplinary incidents and dropout rates for students with learning and attention issues.”

The bibliographic citation for this report is:

Horowitz, S. H., Rawe, J., & Whittaker, M. C. (2017). The State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5. New York: National Center for Learning Disabilities.


Global Accessibility Awareness Day: Making Assistive Technology Smart and Accessible

Screen reader assistive augmentative communication for blind and dyslexic dyslexia users

Giovanni Canobbio (left), Integration Technologies Group demonstrates a CCTV reader for low vision users to Todd Birkenruth (right), USDA, AMS, Disabled Employees Program Manager at the United States Department of Agriculture, Departmental Management Target Center 20th Anniversary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC, Thursday, Sept 13, 2012. Since 1992, the USDA TARGET Center has provided Assistive Technology to employees with disabilities. By providing this technology the TARGET Center’s has assisted thousands of individuals with disabilities to further contribute to the mission of USDA. The Target Center has partnered with the Department of Defense Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP). USDA photo by Bob Nichols

Most designers create websites that are compatible with both traditional desktop computers and mobile devices. However, how many website designers have browsed their creation through a screen reader, a device that makes content accessible to users who are blind, vision impaired, dyslexic, or otherwise unable to quickly read text? Back in 2011, a programmer named Joe Devon asked himself that question and proposed a Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Jennison Ascuncion, an accessibility professional from Toronto read the proposal and joined forces with Joe. So today, the third Thursday of May, is the sixth Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The purpose of GAAD is “to get everyone talking, thinking, and learning about digital (web, software, mobile) access/inclusion and people with different disabilities.”


This issue has gained additional importance in the context of recent issues concerning net neutrality and Internet privacy. In addition to increased independence for people with a disability, the dream and objective of the Internet being a democratic forum, a place where everyone can and should participate with equality is very much at play here.


So, again, what is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, why should you care, and how can you get involved? Jonathan Hassell interviews its co-creator, Jennison Asuncion, at the 28th Annual International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference (CSUN 2013) to get the low-down on this annual growing event. Here’s an informative interview with Jennison Asuncion from GAAD 2014:



Please go to the GAAD website to learn more.


Finally, the organization particularly recommends a recent article in PC Magazine,
“Augmented Ability: Assistive Tech Gets Smart.”

October Is Dyslexia Awareness Month: Appreciating Extraordinary Creativity

Brian, who has dyslexia, benefited from assistive technology from Advancing Opportunities

With a positive attitude and the help of the proper assistive technology, people with dyslexia can succeed in school and go to college. Brian Meersma, featured here as a high school student on Advancing Opportunities Assisitve Technology Center YouTube Channel, went on to graduate college with honors and become an expert AT advocate and respected blogger.


Two brothers from Ohio were the first to escape the surly bonds of Earth with a powered, controllable airplane.  The creator of Britain’s most successful independent airline by far, Virgin Atlantic, is seeking to soar higher than the rest, planning commercial flights into lower Earth orbit.  What do Orville and Wilbur Wright and Sir Richard Branson have in common?  They have dyslexia.  So did Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs, not to mention “our own” Bruce Springsteen.  What these individuals also share is an extraordinary creativity that has enabled them to meet the challenges of their disability and put their ingenuity to use in ways that have literally changed the world.

Dyslexia is neurological condition in which one has difficulty recognizing words, which may make understanding written text or learning a foreign language very difficult.  In addition to reading, writing, spelling, and speaking can be challenging.  Dyslexia affects 17 percent, or one in six school children.

Large-print books and audio recordings, very helpful to people with dyslexia, have been available for a while.  More recently, however, such assistive technology has become increasingly sophisticated.  One notable Advancing Opportunities success story is a young man named Brian Meersma.  Back in middle school, Brian struggled to read.    His language arts teacher thought he was simply not making the effort.  “It was just so frustrating, because I was trying my best, but she didn’t realize it,” he said.    Brian’s parents learned about the Assistive Technology Center at Advancing Opportunities.  His specialist introduced him to several tools.  Learning Ally and Bookshare are services that allow him to download books that are either pre-recorded or, through special software, convert written words to speech.  Kurzweil 3000 is a downloadable app that provides text-to-speech in seven languages, “reading” any digital text aloud, from textbooks to the Internet.  Kurzweil 3000 comes with virtual sticky notes, graphic organizers, writing templates, and spell-checking dictionaries.  For Brian, “assistive technology has been a lifeline,” says his mom.  Brian was not only accepted to an Ivy League college, he graduated with honors and is a well-known and highly respected blogger.

To recognize the talents so many people with dyslexia have and to spread awareness of tools and accommodations available to this population, the International Dyslexia Association in 2002 declared October National Dyslexia Awareness Month.  In 2015, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to this effect, in addition to expanding the definition of dyslexia and the types of services these students are entitled to not only succeed, but also soar.

Celebrating the Power of Assistive Technology


It’s time to revisit a fine 2014 blog post from Edutopia on what assistive technology can do for students with learning disabilities, offering them access to the wonders and benefits of education.  This blog post is also notable for links to other informative and inspiring videos, well worth watching.

So, here it is:

5-Minute Film Festival: The Power of Assistive Technology


Coming Our Way: An Important Conference and a Lecture Series

Two noteworthy New Jersey events are coming our way!

Facets of Dyslexia Conference

Saturday, April 16, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m

3rd Annual Facets of Dyslexia Conference

More information can be found here.

This is an important event on helping people with a learning disability in New Jersey. Advancing Opportunities is proud to be a sponsor of this conference!


Eden Autism Lecture Series

Saturday, April 16, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Eden Autism Princeton Lecture Series



Learning Ally to Recognize and Honor Six Outstanding Students with Blindness and Learning Disabilities

We're Being Chased by Terns!

     Previously, we featured Brian Meersma, one the clients who benefited from the Advancing Opportunities Assistive Technology Center.  He is now a Freshman at Cornell University, a Dean’s List student with a solid record of achievement through his long-time advocacy and self-advocacy.  On Saturday, April 18, he will be one of six talented people to earn one of Learning Ally’s National Achievement Awards.  These awards recognize outstanding students with print and learning disabilities; they are “role models of success and inspiration to students throughout the country,” according to Learning Ally. Formerly known as Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic, the organization was founded in 1948; its mission is “to promote personal achievement when access and reading are barriers to learning by advancing the use of accessible and effective educational solutions.”  Through the agency, students who are blind or have learning disabilities such as dyslexia have access to the world’s largest library of human-narrated audiobooks, along with the assistive technology that goes along with them.

In addition to Brian, the other winners are:

  • Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer, a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, blind since birth, who aims to become a chemistry professor
  • Mara Schein, a Cornell University student majoring in policy analysis and management
  • Brian Miller, a blind man with a PhD in history, with a focus on disability rights
  • Kelsey Waldron, a Carleton College student exploring various academic areas
  • Valeria Paradiso, a blind graduate student at Hunter College, studying psychology and special education.

What all five individuals share is a dedication to advocating for children and adults who are blind, dyslexic, or have other learning disabilities.

The Gala will take place at the Marriot Marquis in Washington, DC, from 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.  For more information about this exciting event and to register, please go to the special Web site, at:

Case Studies in Assistive Technology and How It Helps – Part 4: Brian Discovers the Joys of Reading Independently

Assistive technology is a term that covers any tool that helps a person with a disability perform a task on his or her own.  The variety of tools is as great as the types of disability and the number of tasks that need to be done.  The Assistive Technlogy Center at Advancing Opportunities has provided individuals with custom guidance on selecting and using diverse devices and software to perform everyday tasks and recreational activities and to communicate with a greater degree of independence they thought possible.

Assistive Technology Enables Tess to Expresses Herself and Shine in School

   In middle school, Brian struggled to read.  His language arts teacher thought he was simply not making the effort.  “It was just so frustrating, because I was trying my best, but she didn’t realize it,” he says.  Brian has dyslexia.  To gain access to the written work, Brian listens to audio texts on several devices while visually following the text; Learning Ally supplies both the recordings and the hardware.  He can also download audio titles from Bookshare, a vast online library of accessible books.  “Assistive technology has been a lifeline,” says his mom.  “It’s been a way to enable him to become independent.”  Now, Brian attends college.