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  • 5 Apr 2019 3:55 PM | Anonymous

    NorthEast Association of Learning Specialists (NEALS) Celebrates with 20th Anniversary Members’ Conference 


    Rye, NH - The NorthEast Association of Learning Specialists (NEALS), the premier professional development organization for learning specialists, held its 20th Anniversary Members’ Conference and Celebration April 3-5, 2019 at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center in Westford, MA.  The two-day conference, exclusive to members and invited guests, was significant for NEALS as its membership celebrates remarkable growth and twenty years of service to students with learning disabilities. The conference included a ticketed dinner and gala on Thursday evening to honor NEALS mentors and a new generation of learning specialists, educators who tirelessly help students with learning challenges and disabilities to realize their full potential. 


    Of note, keynote speakers Dr. George McCloskey and Nanci Shepardson presented at the conference on Improving Executive Capacities at Multiple Levels and Assistive Technology: What the Research Says About Which Technologies Support Skill Acquisition, respectively. Sharon Plante also spoke both days about the latest technologies available to students with learning disabilities.  Phil Wilson, internationally renowned jazz performer who has dyslexia, performed Thursday evening at the gala dinner.  NEALS also debuted its original film Reservation with You, which president Susan Cole Ross notes was “created as an entertaining, poignant, and lasting gift in return for all the sacrifices learning specialists make for students in need.”  Ross remarks that the conference attracted over one hundred academic support professionals, including psychologists, therapists, educational consultants, and scholars, whose collaboration at the conference stands to impact thousands of students in independent schools.  

  • 16 Mar 2019 3:57 PM | Anonymous

    Welcome to NEALS’ 20th Anniversary Celebration!


    Foremost, we celebrate you, our members, because you are the greatest value offered by NEALS. With our online discussions, at our regional meetings, and at this conference you bring your wisdom, your creativity, and your support to hundreds of fellow learning specialists. That support in turn brings innovative professionalism, refreshed teaching, and cutting edge services to thousands of students with learning challenges: a sustainable gift to the world. 


    To such lofty goals, please make the most of this year’s two day opportunity to enjoy camaraderie, networking, learning, retreat activities, and great food!  We are so excited to hear from our keynote speakers, Dr. George McCloskey and Nanci Shepardson, on some of our most compelling issues in their talks on Improving Executive Capacities at Multiple Levels and Assistive Technology: What the Research Says About Which Technologies Support Skill Acquisition, respectively. In additionSharon Plante has so generously offered to speak to us on both days, as she has on our online discussions, about the latest technologies available to make our students as literate, creatively effective and educationally included as possible. 


    Be sure to join us Thursday evening, with Phil Wilson, internationally renowned jazz performer, who also has dyslexia, in celebrating our milestone and the work that you do every day.  We will be debuting Reservation with You, a special film we have created, that I am sure you will receive as a poignant and lasting gift in return for all the sacrifices you make for students in need. 


    I recently spoke with Rick Lavoie, author of the groundbreaking film How Difficult Can This Be? and book The Motivation Breakthrough, who congratulates us on NEALS’ 20th, noting how remarkable it has been for our nonprofit to thrive over the last 20 years.  NEALS has survived the recession, grown at a time when so many nonprofits have crumbled, and added value to your members each year. We’re excited about the 20th, but most excited about the added value that NEALS has come to offer.  We are eager for your ideas to expand the benefits of membership further. We hope that NEALS’ 30th celebration will look back with pride at how far we’ve come from here!




  • 24 Feb 2019 8:33 PM | Laura Foody (Administrator)

    By Chris Ouellette

    We have found that there is one support tool that is necessary to have before you implement any other tool or resource with a student. The first tool we are sharing with you is yourself and the ability to really know your student

    There I was, fresh out of my degree program, with all of the latest programs and resources to support students diagnosed with learning disabilities. I was assigned Student Y who could benefit greatly from what I learned in my degree program. I was scheduled with the student for second block of the day. This was it, the moment had come, I even had on my favorite shirt. The student came into my space, took one look at me, screamed and ran out refusing to meet. I peeked my head out of the room in time to see other heads staring down at me quizzically.  I asked myself “how could this go so wrong when we have all of this training?!?” As it turned out, if I had done some initial digging, I would have discovered that Student Y had a prominent aversion to the color yellow. I bet you can guess what color my favorite shirt was.

    While this is an extreme example, I am positive that I would have worn a different color shirt had I been privy to that piece of prior knowledge about the student. The number of hats that we wear; teacher; coach; advisor; counselor; dorm parent; etc., allows us to develop deep and meaningful connections with our students. These connections are what allow us to serve our students to the best of our abilities. These relationships allow us to praise students during their great moments; and allow us to really lean in to the discomfort with our students during their difficult times. More importantly, it is these relationships that help our students lean into the vulnerability needed to receive specialized support for a learning disability. Knowing your student works well on the individual level, but how about within the overall climate of the school? 

    When referring to school climate, Dr. Bill Preble of New England College said, “students just can’t learn when their pants are on fire,” meaning that in order to provide optimal learning conditions, we need to help students feel safe in the environment. Preble and Taylor (2009) state “When teachers or principals perceive their schools to be safe and respectful places, they may be blind to problems going on right under their noses.” Battling those blind spots becomes much easier when the faculty and staff at the school really know their students. This is where learning specialists play a critical role as we are often the only adults sitting down with a student one on one every week. If each student has at least one adult that truly knows them, the odds are increased that these students will share both the good and the bad. When students are sharing with us, when we truly have a pulse on the school, we are better able to create the positive school climates that our students need to thrive in education. 

    We are fortunate to be able to continue fostering the relationships with the students that we know well already. My challenge to you is to get to know some students that you don’t know well already. How you might ask? You could throw up an extra high-five in the hallway, or invite in the whole group of students who drop by your office with your student. It makes such a difference to a child, away from home when a learning specialist goes to an extra home game, or congratulates them on their recently won award, whether you are close to them or not. Thank you, because no matter how you choose to get to know your students, you are helping to provide a learning environment where they can thrive. 

    That’s it for today, and I will leave you with the wise words of the Blue Scholars, “in each mind resides a potential so potent”.



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