December 17th, 2021

2021 Year in Review: The 1 in 5 are Unstoppable Forces

Individuals with disabilities are impressive learners in spite of the challenges they face. We’ve spent this year amplifying the voices of the 1 in 5 people with learning and attention issues and taking every opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our LD leaders. This blog highlights some of what we’re most proud of this year. We fought to shape local and national policy that dismantles barriers and ensures opportunity and access for all. We upheld the importance of knowledge to our community,  pursuing research to seek greater understanding. We developed valuable, insightful reports and tools to empower our community — educators, policymakers, parents and students — to gain a deeper understanding of learning disabilities so that we can change lives.

Year at a Glance

Federal Policy Agenda for 117th Congress
NCLD announced the Federal Policy Agenda for 117th Congress. The agenda asked the Biden Administration and 117th Congress to focus on 7 key issues addressing longstanding opportunity gaps that impact the 1 in 5,  as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our education system. Throughout the year, NCLD worked to advocate for these goals.

YouTube Series: Self-Advocacy – Black Girls with Learning Disabilities
Young Adult Leadership Council alumni Alyssia Jackson and Atira Roberson, in partnership with Education Trust, created a YouTube series and blog: Self-Advocacy – Black Girls with Learning Disabilities. The series was NCLD’s most viewed of the year.

A Conversation with Judy Heumann
NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council members, Michaela Hearst and Julia Kaback, had the opportunity to talk with Judy Heumann, a lifelong disability rights advocate, author, and political leader.

Here I Stand: Perspectives on Being an Advocate in a Changing World
Advocates joined the Here I Stand event, co-hosted with Eye to Eye National, to hear from different leaders across the country who are pushing the margins of what’s possible and focusing on the intersection of racial and disability justice. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) was a speaker at the event. 

LD Day of Action: Together We Stand
NCLD’s advocates, both young adults and parents, participated in LD Day of Action where they advocated on behalf of the disability community to Members of Congress and their staff. Over 100 advocates came together for an LD Town Hall, Together We Stand, to raise awareness of and celebrate the achievements of individuals with learning disabilities.

The RISE Act is Reintroduced
NCLD worked with Congress to support the reintroduction of the Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act. If passed, the bipartisan bill would improve the process for students who qualify for disability services by requiring colleges to accept a wider variety of forms of documentation.

NCLD Awards Anne and Allegra Ford Scholarships
NCLD awarded its annual scholarships to students with LD and/or ADHD. Chidera Ejiofor and Jocelyn Dow were awarded the 2021 Anne Ford Scholarship, for graduating seniors enrolling in a 4-year institution. Juliana Ramai and Lys Fabian were awarded the 2021 Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship, for graduating high school seniors enrolling in a 2-year college or training program.

NCLD Awards COVID-19 Scholarships
NCLD recognized the hardship that young adults are facing and awarded a new scholarship intended to support students with LD or ADHD whose college and life plans have been significantly impacted by COVID-19. Twelve winners were awarded scholarships to mitigate the financial and academic disruptions of the pandemic on their education.

NCLD Awards Two Everyday Champions
For the second year, NCLD launched its Everyday Champion Award,  recognizing an educator and a school administrator who went above and beyond to help children with learning and attention issues during the pandemic. NCLD was proud to recognize the exceptional achievements of Susan Maurer, an educator from New Jersey, and Jenny Tucker Mottes, a school administrator from California.

NCLD Welcomes New Young Adult Leadership Council Cohort
Twelve young adult leaders joined NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council, which harnesses the power and voices of young leaders with the shared goal to improve the lives of the 1 in 5. In 2022 and beyond, the YALC will set the course of NCLD’s policy goals on college transition and more.

LD Awareness Month: Our Pillars of Change
To celebrate LD Awareness Month, NCLD released our pillars of change: Investing in Brighter Futures, Champion Research and Knowledge, Crafting Policy that Works, and Shining a Light on Inequality. 

NCLD Benefit: Forces for Change
NCLD hosted its second Virtual Annual Benefit, Forces for Change, highlighting the inspiring and courageous work of individuals within our community. The event was hosted by Ernie Hudson with special appearances from Melissa Joan Hart, Diggy Simons, Christopher McDonald, and community organizers/digital influencers.

Young Adult Leadership Council Letter to ED: Issue Guidance for Students with Disabilities in Postsecondary Education Institutions
In a letter to Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal, 19 members of NCLD’s Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC)  highlighted the urgency of issues facing college students with disabilities. The letter shared firsthand experiences of YALC members obtaining accommodations in college and the importance of them to their collegiate success.

The IDEA Full Funding Act is Reintroduced
Congress has never fulfilled its promise to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). NCLD and over 85 organizations supported the reintroduction of the IDEA Full Funding Act in Congress. Our advocates have played an important role too: over 1,200 messages have been sent to Members of Congress urging them to support the bill or thanking them for their support. 

Our voices were heard.

YALC member Lizzy Arnold’s blog, Accepting Yourself ADHD and All: Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, was our top visited blog post. Other blog posts from YALC members included: Black Girls w/ Disabilities, College Accommodations and COVID-19, Having a Learning Disability or ADHD in the Workplace, I’m Not Sorry…, Defying Misconceptions of My Learning Disability, Pet Therapy and Learning Disabilities, and Learning Disabilities and High Stakes Testing.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services posted two plogs from YALC members for LD Awareness month: Forming a Disability Identity as a Dyslexic, by Rachelle Johnson, and Self-Worth, Encouragement, Times of Value: These Kept Me Going by Kayla Queen.

Other published opinion editorials and blogs included: Stimulus Funds Alone Won’t Help Underserved Students. States Must Make Sure They Reach Students Who Are Homeless, Living with Disabilities, and English Learners by Lindsay E. Jones, Barbara Duffield, and Janet Murguía, In 2022, Let’s Make College Work for All by Lindsay E. Jones, and Does Social-Emotional Learning Help Students Who Could Benefit the Most? We Don’t Know by Sheldon H. Horowitz, Christina Cipriano, and Gabbie Rappolt-Schlichtmann.

New Research and Resources to Equip Families, Practitioners, and Policymakers to Understand and Support the 1 in 5

Promising Practices to Accelerate Learning for Students with Disabilities During COVID-19 and Beyond
These resources include research-based approaches to accelerate learning, implementing acceleration approaches with success, and state and federal-level policy recommendations. They were also cited in the U.S. Department of Education’s Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time

Distance Learning Toolkit to Promote Evidence-Based Practices During COVID-19
NCLD and Understood worked together with experts to create a guide for educators to meet the needs of students through distance learning. The toolkit shares how educators can apply evidence-based mindsets and practices in virtual and hybrid settings during the pandemic. 

Inclusive Social-Emotional Learning for Students with Disabilities
Guided by 7 principles for serving students with disabilities and intersectional identities through SEL approaches, these resources also include a parent advocacy toolkit, state examples and policy recommendations, and two school case studies. NCLD’s work was referenced in an Ed Week Opinion Piece: Does Social-Emotional Learning Help Students Who Could Benefit the Most? We Don’t Know

Evaluating Children for Special Education During COVID-19 and Beyond
As school and district administrators navigate the challenges of identifying children for special education during the pandemic, NCLD developed briefs to inform state and district policies and practices, as well as a parent and caregiver guide to special education evaluations in both English and Spanish. 

Forward Together: Pandemic Lessons for Effective Teaching Practices
Building off of the previous Forward Together project and the Distance Learning Toolkit, NCLD and Understood sought to better understand how educators unlock the potential of the 1 in 5. With research support from the CERES Institute at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, this research highlights general educators’ experiences during the pandemic

Strength in Numbers: Building Our Networks and Relationships 

In 2020, NCLD co-founded the Educating All Learners Alliance (EALA), a coalition and digital ecosystem that has grown to over 100 national partners in 2021. This year, NCLD continued to help EALA grow and hosted two all-partner convenings. Following the convenings, NCLD and EALA partner organizations developed two resources: Our Unique Identities and Investing ESSER Funds to Prepare and Support Teachers of Students with Disabilities

NCLD continues to lead and participate in countless coalitions, including the Consortium for Citizens Disabilities, IDEA Full Funding Coalition, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, amongst others. 


It’s easy to despair given everything that’s going on in the world today. But we at NCLD are optimists and believe that we can change the future for people with learning disabilities. That requires hard work, dedication, building an intersectional LD movement, and fighting for what matters. If we invest in brighter futures for our kids, champion research and knowledge, craft policies that work for kids and families, and shine a light on inequity — we will change the future.

2022, here we come!

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