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Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities: Why They Matter

Tuesday, October 31, 2023 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT

Happy students standing by lockers

Presented by Riley Mulcahy, Marketing and Admissions Associate, Compass High School Bay Area (CA), and Executive Director, The RILEY Project; Sharon Updyke, Director of Teaching and Learning, Compass High School (CA); and Dr. Xin Wei, Senior Quantitative Researcher, Digital Promise
Moderated by Barbara Pape, Senior Director, Learner Variability Project, Digital Promise

Sponsored by Digital Promise

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Accommodations for students with learning disabilities sometimes are inappropriately viewed as not fair to all students. In this edWebinar, we hear what the research says about accommodations, particularly extra time, and why adding accommodations to the learning experience for students with learning disabilities and ADHD is the support required for these students to have the same instructional goals as students without disabilities.

We discuss how these supports allow students to access learning and can increase student motivation and self-advocacy skills, critical as students move to college and the workplace. In this edWebinar, viewers discover:

  • Why accommodations do not change the expectations for learning and why that is important for students with learning disabilities and ADHD
  • What the impact is of extra time in a testing environment
  • Personal stories from a young adult with learning disabilities who currently works at a school for students with learning differences
  • How a teacher has designed a classroom to accommodate students with learning disabilities and ADHD and how to adapt her ideas in larger classrooms
  • How accommodations can nurture a sense of belonging and motivate students to achieve and develop self-advocacy

This recorded edWebinar is of interest to K-12 teachers, librarians, and school and district leaders.

Riley Mulcahy

About the Presenters

Riley Mulcahy, Executive Director of The RILEY Project, stands as a beacon for accessible education tailored for students with learning differences. Drawing strength from his own dyslexia diagnosis, Riley is passionate about giving a voice to students and young adults, enabling them to share their unique stories through The RILEY Project. As a Marketing and Admissions Associate at Compass High School Bay Area, he’s been instrumental in fostering partnerships and amplifying community outreach initiatives, ensuring a supportive environment for students with learning disabilities. With memberships to the International Dyslexia Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of America, Riley continues to make strides in advocacy and awareness. A proud alum of Saint Mary’s College of California, his academic and professional journey underscores a dedication to creating platforms for those with learning differences to shine.

Sharon Updyke

Sharon Updyke has been teaching children with learning differences for 15 years. She discovered her career while searching for educational support for her children, who struggled in the learning environment. Much of her career has been working with students in a one-on-one environment, primarily remediating math skills and supporting students with their executive functioning, adapted learning, motivation, development of positive academic affect, comprehension, and writing skills. She uses a multi-sensory and incremental approach to ensure that concepts are taught explicitly and supports the student in developing a deep understanding of the concepts. For the past three years, she has taught math at Compass High School, specializing in teaching neurodivergent students. This year, she is working as their Director of Teaching and Learning. Through this role, she more closely influences the culture of educating students to be lifelong learners, great self-advocates, and knowing they are cared for and valuable members of society.

Xin Wei

Dr. Xin Wei serves as a Senior Quantitative Researcher on the Learning Science Research team at Digital Promise. With over two decades in the field, she excels in leveraging data analytics to improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities. As director of analytics or principal investigator of federally funded projects, Dr. Wei adeptly oversees research design, data analysis, and dissemination. Her research portfolio encompasses a range of topics in special education, from academic growth trajectories in reading and math to the effectiveness of behavioral interventions, K-12 and post-secondary STEM education, and the interaction of students with disabilities with digital learning platforms and assessments. Dr. Wei’s impactful work has resulted in noteworthy publications and has been instrumental in shaping both educational and workforce policies.

About the Moderator

Barbara Pape, Senior Director for the Learner Variability Project at Digital Promise, led a three-year national survey on learner variability and teacher practice, wrote the paper defining learner variability, hosts a monthly webinar series, and co-developed The IEP Project. Previously, she worked in policy analysis and communications for nonprofits and in the U.S. Senate. Barbara has written for numerous publications and was editor of the first electronically delivered education newsletter, the Daily Report Card. Previously, she produced the Teaching & Learning conference for the National Board, worked in the communications office for the AFT during President Al Shanker’s tenure, and headed up government relations for the City Colleges of Chicago. She earned an Ed.M. at Harvard and coursework toward a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia. Barbara launched her career as a middle school teacher in her hometown of Pittsburgh.

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