The Gifts and the Challenges of Dyslexia



Join us for a two day event of expert advice on the identification, treatment and neuroscience of dyslexia where we explore not only how to strengthen early identification, treatment and resources, but also understand the paradox of how neurodevelopment leads to gifts and disabilities in the same individual, and how to focus on the exceptional strengths of the dyslexic brain.

Our national experts will provide information on component models designed to guide the assessment of dyslexia and reading disorders, explain how cognitive neuroscience may contribute to helping people with dyslexia, and provide data based research on the cognitive advantages and disadvantages of dyslexia.

Target Audience
Psychologists, physicians, licensed/independent clinicians, interns/residents in training, nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech and language therapists, teachers and and administrators, special education professionals, behaviorists, allied health professionals, administrators, direct care and social services professionals, board & care/residential services staff, ILS/SLS staff, day program/club house/wellness center staff, educators, service coordinators, case managers, and other professionals coordinating and applying treatment strategies for persons with dyslexia.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

8:00 am Registration
8:15 am Welcome
8:30 am Morning Workshop – Dyslexia Evaluation: An Educational Diagnostic Approach
Susan C. Lowell, M.A., B.C.E.T., Vice President, The International Dyslexia Association; Chair, Global Partners Program; Adjunct Faculty, Simmons College; Director, Educational Therapy Associates

Using a component model to guide the assessment of dyslexia and reading disorders, assessment will be linked to symptoms of dyslexia and reading disorders. The definition of dyslexia, a language-based learning disability, will be presented. The role of receptive vocabulary, phonological and phonemic awareness, phonological memory, rapid automatic naming, early literacy skills including letter name and letter sound, phonics accuracy and automaticity, decoding, fluency, comprehension, spelling, and writing development in literacy development will be discussed. Discussion will also include the recent special education law, IDEIA, and its criteria for identification and eligibility for remediation and accommodation of diagnosed learning disorders. Professional and ethical guidelines for use of standardized assessment measures will be reviewed.

Specific Goals and Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will learn the definition and prevalence of dyslexia, a specific language-based learning disability.
  • Participants will understand the most recent special education law, IDEA 2004, and its criteria for identification and remediation of diagnosed learning disorders.
  • Participants will use a component model of assessment of dyslexia and reading disorders to link assessment to symptoms of dyslexia and language-based learning disabilities. Assessment of phonemic awareness, phonological or language-based memory, rapid automatic naming, decoding, fluency, comprehension, spelling, writing, and receptive vocabulary will be discussed. The importance of using standardized assessment measures will be part of the presentation.

10:15 am Break
10:30 am Morning Workshop continues
12:00 noon Lunch (provided)
1:00 pm Afternoon Workshop – Genetic Risk Factors in Reading Disability and Neurodevelopmental Underpinnings of Reading Deficits Alongside Nonverbal Gifts
Jeffrey Gilger, Ph.D., University of California, Psychological Sciences, SSHA

The first part of this workshop will overview what is known about the genetics of reading disability (RD), with a focus on how these findings relate to what we know about neurodevelopment. Family and genetic data most useful to the practicing clinician will be emphasized (e.g., patterns of transmission and their implications for risk and prognosis). The second portion of this presentation will focus on developing issues in the area of twice exceptionality or giftedness concurrent with RD. Several projects out of our lab will be described that use epidemiologic, structural and functional MRI data to address whether or not there is a developmental connection between RD and giftedness, and what the neurological profile of the GRD individual looks like.

Specific Goals and Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will obtain an understanding of genetic research methodologies and how genes work developmental learning disorders
  • Participants will be able describe the essential neurological deficits in the RD individual and how these deficits develop across the lifespan
  • Participants will be exposed to data and theory that describes the gifted RD individual and their unique ways of processing information

2:30 pm Break
2:45 pm Afternoon Workshop continues
4:30 pm Adjourn

Sunday, January 13, 2013

8:30 am Morning Workshop – Tests of Reading Comprehension and Written Expression: Looking Beyond the Scores
Melissa Farrall, Ph.D., SAIF, Mind Matters, Inc.

Knowledge of tests as consumer products, coupled with an understanding of the role of oral language in reading and writing, can provide educators and parents with the tools needed to ensure that evaluations are of benefit to the children we test. The field of assessment is rife with complaints about standardized tests of reading and writing. Critics claim that many tests oversimplify the factors that contribute to reading comprehension, and that they do not clearly identify the skills that need to be taught. Tests of written language are notorious for their lack of consistency, their limited sample of skills, and for providing scores that may not reflect a child’s performance in the classroom.

Assessment is a field in which small differences in test design can have serious implications for how well (or poorly) a student performs. The workshop will examine the different ways in which standardized tests measure reading comprehension and written expression and what those differences can tell us about children’s strengths and weaknesses as learners. We will take a critical look at how factors such as the publisher’s perspective, the types of questions and prompts used, and the actual skills measured affect test performance. As part of this discussion we will focus on the relationship between oral language, reading comprehension, and written expression as a foundation for making effective, research-based recommendations.

Specific Goals and Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will learn about the relationship between oral language, reading comprehension, and written language and what it can tell us about disorders of reading and writing.
  • Participants will learn about the different ways in which standardized tests measure reading comprehension and written expression, and how those differences affect our perception of children’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Participants will learn how to use their knowledge of test design to think beyond test scores and support all children in their efforts to read and write.

10:15 am Break
10:30 am Morning Workshop continues
12:00 noon Lunch (not provided)
1:00 pm Afternoon Workshop – The Gift of Dyslexia
Ronald D. Davis, Davis Dyslexia Association International, Davis Autism International, and NOIT Research

Usually when people hear the word dyslexia they think only of reading, writing, spelling, and math problems a child is having in school. Some associate it only with word and letter reversals, some only with slow learners. Almost everyone considers it some form of a learning disability, but the learning disability is only one face of dyslexia. The mental function that causes dyslexia is a gift in the truest sense of the word: a natural ability, a talent. It is something special that enhances the individual. Dyslexics don’t all develop the same gifts, but they do have certain mental functions in common. These abilities, if not suppressed, invalidated or destroyed by parents or the educational process, will result in two characteristics: higher than normal intelligence, and extraordinary creative abilities. From these the true gift of dyslexia can emerge — the gift of mastery. The gift of mastery develops in many ways and in many areas. For Albert Einstein it was physics; for Walt Disney, it was art; for Greg Louganis, it was athletic prowess. To change our perspective of dyslexia from disability to gift, we must start with a clear, accurate understanding of what dyslexia really is, and what causes it. Doing this will bring out the positive as well as the negative aspects of the situation and allow us to see how dyslexia develops. Then the idea of correcting it won’t seem far-fetched. Going a step beyond correcting the problem, we can also recognize and explore this condition as the gift it truly is. In this workshop, Mr. Davis will address the causes of dyslexia as well as identifying ways the diagnosis can be corrected to allow the best possible outcomes for the individual impacted.

Specific Goals and Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will be able to explain why dyslexia is a functional problem and not a structural problem.
  • Participants will be able to identify at least two tools used which can be used to effectively compensate for the challenges of dyslexia.
  • Participants willunderstand how motivation and responsibility are critical to mastering the gift of dyslexia.

2:30 pm Break
2:45 pm Afternoon Workshop continues
4:30 pm Adjourn
Burrell is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Burrell maintains responsibility for the program and its content. This course is approved for 12 CE credits.

Burrell Behavioral Health is approved by the American Occupational Therapy Association to sponsor continuing education for occupational therapists. All workshops in this conference are to be considered intermediate level of training. Each workshop will provide .3 Category 1 AOTA CEU’s.


Susan C. Lowell, M.A., B.C.E.T.

Susan C. Lowell, M.A., B.C.E.T. is a Fulbright Lecturer and a Vice President of the International Dyslexia Association’s Board of Directors. Ms. Lowell serves as an Associate to the Advisory Committee on Exceptional Children of the Office of Overseas Schools, U.S. Department of State, working as a reading consultant for the international schools. Ms. Lowell is an adjunct faculty member at Simmons College in Boston in the graduate program, Language and Literacy, and an adjunct faculty member at Buffalo State, State University of New York. As the director of Educational Therapy Associates ( in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Ms. Lowell works as an educational diagnostician providing clinical evaluations of learning difficulties including dyslexia. Ms. Lowell provides teacher training in reading instruction and reading disorders including dyslexia and serves as a literacy consultant for school districts.


Jeffrey W. Gilger, PhD

Jeffrey W. Gilger, PhD, is Professor and Chair of Psychological Sciences at UC Merced. Prior to his arrival there in 2011 he was the College of Education’s Associate Dean for Discovery and Faculty Development (2004-2010), and a Professor of Special Education and Psychological Sciences (courtesy) a t Purdue University. Prior to Purdue Dr. Gilger was a department chair (Cal State, Los Angeles) and Director of the interdisciplinary Human Biology program at the University of Kansas. Gilger has an MS in Clinical Child/School Psychology, and an MA and PhD in Developmental Psychology with a specialty in Behavioral Genetics. His scholarship is inherently multidisciplinary spanning the clinical, educational and neuroscience disciplines, and for many years he has presented information to a wide audience on the biology and expression of atypical development, particularly applied to learning disabilities. His teaching and research has tended to focus on normal and abnormal neuropsychological development, genetics, and the etiology of learning-language disorders such as dyslexia. Ongoing research projects include the neurology/genetics of the gifted-reading disabled individual, the use of computer programs to stimulate learning, and the etiology of spatial giftedness. Dr. Gilger was among the first investigators to describe the genetic patterns for inherited learning and comorbid disorders in families and to suggest that the genes for dyslexia may be part of the normal continuum of reading variation. He was also the first to conduct brain imaging work on gifted dyslexics. Dr. Gilger has participated on a number of national and international research, learning and engagement projects. He has been a reviewer for over 40 journals and publishers in the areas of education, psychology and medicine, and has served on the Advisory, Editorial and/or Review Boards for national and international grant agencies, publications and professional organizations.


Melissa Lee Farrall, PhD

Melissa Lee Farrall, PhD, is the author of Reading Assessment: Linking Language, Literacy, and Cognition, and the co-author of All About Tests soon to be published by Wrightslaw. Dr. Farrall currently teaches assessment and the structure of language at Simmons College in Boston, MA, and at Bay Path College in Burlington, MA. She also works as an independent evaluator and consultant for parents and schools through her business, Mind Matters, Inc., in Amherst, NH. Dr. Farrall has always had a strong interest in language. She taught Russian language and literature at Tufts University. Dr. Farrall taught graduate level courses in assessment, language, reading, and cognition at Rivier College, Nashua, NH. In the early 1980s Dr. Farrall developed one of the early text-to-speech programs for personal computers for Sweet Microsystems. She has worked as a Russian language interpreter for social service, legal, and medical applications. Dr. Farrall received her doctorate from Brown University in 1981 in the area of Slavic Linguistics. She received her Master’s Degree from Rivier College in Learning Disabilities in 1994, and her certification as a Specialist in the Assessment of Intellectual Functioning in 1999. Dr. Farrall worked as a Learning Disabilities Specialist at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in southern New Hampshire. She was the co-founder of The Reading Foundation in Amherst, NH, a tutorial agency specializing in direct, systematic multisensory instruction. Dr. Farrall presently serves on the International Dyslexia Association Accreditation Committee as part of the IDA-s efforts to recognize college-level programs for their excellence in teacher training in the field of reading.


Ronald D. Davis

Ronald D. Davis. Born severely autistic, Ron Davis endured daily abuse at home and was labeled mentally retarded at school. Then, against all the odds, he somehow emerged from a void of isolation into the real world around the age of nine. By the time he was seventeen, his IQ tested at 137. At age nineteen, speech therapy made it possible for Ron to speak coherently, but sadly he was still unable to read because, he was also severely dyslexic. He remained functionally illiterate until the age of thirty-eight, and even though he achieved success as an engineer, artist and businessman in that time, he was hiding from everyone around him the fact that he could neither read nor write. Then, in 1981, he performed a series of experiments on his own perceptions that profoundly changed the way he experienced reality. This seminal breakthrough enabled him to correct and control the involuntary perceptual distortions which were at the root of his dyslexia and his autism. In 1982, with the help of educational psychologist, Dr. Fatima Ali, he researched and developed a counseling program for correcting dyslexia in adults and children, and opened the doors of the Reading Research Council in Burlingame, California. In 1994, he wrote The Gift of Dyslexia, which is now published in 18 languages. He hasn’t looked back since. Today, Ron and his wife, Alice, direct three international training and research organization, Davis Dyslexia Association International, Davis Autism International, and NOIT Research. Over 450 Davis Facilitators in 44 nations now provide programs which address dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia, and autism. His life and work truly exemplify the The Gift of Dyslexia.

Hotel Reservations

RamadaThe New Frontiers in Pediatric Mental Health Conference will be held at the University Plaza Hotel Convention Center, Springfield, Missouri

Located in the heart of downtown Springfield – surrounded by great restaurants, lounges and coffee shops – this first class hotel has terrific resort-style amenities like a fitness center, whirlpool, sundeck and indoor and outdoor pools.

Special Room Rates

We have special room rates for conference at $89 (plus applicable taxes) single/double.

Call the reservations department at 417.864.7333 and be sure to ask for the Burrell New Frontiers conference block to receive the discounted conference rate.

NOTE: Rooms at the special rate are subject to availability and sell out quickly! Hotel reservations are separate from conference registration and must be booked and paid for separately.

University Plaza

See their website and take a tour of the hotel at:

University Plaza Hotel
333 John Q. Hammons Parkway
Springfield MO 65806

Hotel Phone: 417.864.7333
Hotel Fax: 417.831.5893