Newtowners Attend IDA Dyslexia Conference

Published: November 08, 2018 at 07:30 am


After the recent International Dyslexia Association (IDA) annual conference, held this year at Foxwoods Resort, October 24 to 27, Newtown residents who attended reflected on the experience and what they learned.

Local parents Alissa Heizler-Mendoza and Suzanne Lang attended the conference, along with Harvey Hubbell V, a Newtown native and Emmy Award-winning director.

“I’ve been going to this conference for quite a while, probably seven years now,” said Ms Lang. “My biggest take away is, we have the knowledge.”

According to the IDA’s website,, next year’s conference is expected to be held in Portland, Ore.

Ms Lang is a former educator, and she is the manager of partnerships for the Poses Family Foundation. She first became an advocate for children with dyslexia about ten years ago, after her child was diagnosed. She said she wanted to help people understand what dyslexia is and how children with dyslexia have “so much potential” that she feels is being wasted. While there is research on dyslexia and how to teach dyslexic children, Ms Lang noted that knowledge is not “trickling down and informing the educators.” She said she is “pro-educator” and feels “we just have to find a way to connect the dots” to give teachers the information and tools they need to support children.

Ms Heizler-Mendoza is the senior director of advocacy and government affairs for Insulet, and she said she regularly attends diabetes conferences. This conference was different. She said there were a couple thousand people in attendance.

“It was very informational, very rewarding,” said Ms Heizler-Mendoza.

Parents, advocates, teachers, people with dyslexia, experts, and tutors were all in attendance. There were presentations and booths set up by different groups. Ms Heizler-Mendoza helped work at Decoding Dyslexia’s booth. Decoding Dyslexia is a national group with state chapters working to “raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children, and inform policy-makers on best practices to identify, remediate, and support students with dyslexia in our public schools,” according to Decoding Dyslexia Connecticut’s website,

After attending the conference, Ms Heizler-Mendoza said she spoke to her child with dyslexia to explain how he can be a self-advocate. She wants him to feel comfortable with his diagnosis, and she wants all students with dyslexia to understand that their brains work differently, and they should be proud of that. Children with dyslexia need to be taught differently than other students, and Ms Heizler-Mendoza said it is important for people to share their personal stories.

The conference, Ms Heizler-Mendoza reflected, was “really geared to the whole family.” She reflected on the negative impact not being able to read can have on a child’s future, and attending the conference made her sad to realize that not every child has a parent advocate. There are resources that can help both the children and parents. Ms Heizler-Mendoza, Ms Lang, and Mr Hubbell all reflected on the number of resources and groups that were made available at the conference.

Decoding Dyslexia, Ms Heizler-Mendoza said, “is a huge resource.” She also recommended that parents should look up Literacy How, IDA, and, which offers a “chat with an expert” tool.

Mr Hubbell is the founder and executive producer of of Captured Time Productions. can help direct people to supports, and it is interested in hearing people’s stories. For more information about sharing stories or to contact for information about support, see its website, where a contact form is available by clicking “Contact.”

Along with IDA, Decoding Dyslexia, Literacy How, and Decoding Dyslexia Connecticut, Mr Hubbell recommended Newtown parents looking for more resources on dyslexia should look into Kildonan School/Camp Dunnabeck and Camp Spring Creek.

Mr Hubbell had a booth for set up at the conference, where his group handed out videos. His group also conducted interviews with people in a suite near the conference. According to its website, is a not-for-profit organization that is “a newly sprouted media hub and video platform dedicated to creating cause-driven content that retools how we approach learning and growth. advocates for education reform and rethinking, resolving critical social issues, self-improvement, and creating better lives for our communities through sharing stories, strengths, and knowledge.”

Mr Hubbell and Ms Heizler-Mendoza recently spoke at an October Dyselxia Legislation Forum in Hartford, where Mr Hubbell shared scenes from his documentary Dislecksia: The Movie, and he spoke about his own experience growing up as a dyslexic learner in Newtown.

If people tell children they are “stupid and lazy,” Mr Hubbell said the children will believe that to be true, and self-esteem issues will develop. Instead, he recommended that teachers should be trained to work with students who learn differently.

To families with dyslexic children, Mr Hubbell said, “Never, ever give up. The most important resource in our nation is our youth, and there is a lot of help out there. When your kid is struggling, don’t wait. They are not going to grow out of it. You want to find out what the reason is for why the child is not reading up to grade level.”

Mr Hubbell also said he has been attending the annual conference for 15 years, and “if there wasn’t a problem, there wouldn’t be thousands of people attending the conference.”

Overall, the IDA annual conference offered a chance to meet “wonderful researchers” and a “wealth of information,” Ms Heizler-Mendoza reflected.

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