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Scenes from the 2015 Wilson Conference

Newport, Rhode Island, was buzzing with 300 Wilson Reading System® Certified teachers and trainers this July during the 17th Annual Conference and Wilson Trainer Meeting. Over the course of three days, participants enjoyed timely keynotes, in-depth breakout sessions, and plenty of opportunities to network with fellow teachers and trainers.

Dr. Gordon Sherman, Executive Director of the Newgrange School in Hamilton, New Jersey, and The Laurel School of Princeton, NJ, opened up the conference with his keynote titled “Welcome to the Future: Where Diverse Brains Thrive.” Describing in great detail his coined term “Cerebrodiversity,” Sherman stressed the importance of recognizing, accepting, and adapting for students whose needs are different due to diverse brain functions, including those with dyslexia.

Dr. Hugh Catts presented on the topic of “Language Basis of Reading Disabilities: Implications for Early Identification and Intervention.” His keynote presentation focused on reading comprehension and where it can go wrong, as well as strategies for early identification of students with reading difficulties. He outlined the challenges children with dyslexia have, and how to most effectively help these students using appropriate interventions.

Tying this information to classroom practice, Barbara Wilson’s presentation, “Individual Differences: Fine Tuning Your Wilson Instruction,” focused on how to tailor Wilson instruction to students’ needs and become even more efficient during lessons. She was also on hand throughout the conference for comments and suggestions, as well as to catch up with teachers and trainers.

Continuing the focus on specific learning processes, Dr. Cheryl Chase and Dr. Michele Berg discussed specific examples of internal struggles for students both in and outside of the classroom. Dr. Chase’s talk covered executive functioning, the way an individual remains organized and focused as they try to complete a task. She highlighted the impact weak executive functioning skills can have on a student, and how families can help strengthen these skills. Dr. Berg focused on working memory, which affects decoding and reading comprehension.

The breakout sessions provided an opportunity for teachers and trainers to learn more about topics relevant to their roles. The trainers attended a session by Dr. Kay Psencik, a senior consultant for Learning Forward, on coaching strategies and effective practices that focus on the coachee throughout the coaching process. Dr. Eileen Harris presented a session on effective assessments and how they apply to Wilson instruction. The teachers had a chance to learn from Nanci Shepardson about assistive technology resources. Wilson Fidelity Team members rounded out the conference with practical, hands-on sessions.

In between breaks attendees enjoyed games, had the opportunity to purchase books related to each talk at the Wilson bookstore, and visit the Dyslexia Foundation and the Learning Ally exhibit booths. Learning Ally also hosted a raffle during the conference. Sharon H. from Concord Public Schools in Massachusetts took home a 10-seat School Membership and Joan G. from Framingham, MA, received a free pass to the Spotlight on Dyslexia conference.

Participants are already looking forward to next year.