The Learning Disabilities Association of Michigan began during the 1962-1963 school year as a result of a special education program established by the Oakland County Intermediate School District called the “Perceptual Development Program.” Parents of the sixteen children involved in the program started meeting under the auspices of the Oakland County schools. It was out of these meetings that LDA MI was ultimately established.
The small group of parents whose children were in the Perceptual Development Program decided to organize an independent association in order to advocate for improved educational services for children with learning disabilities. This association was named the Michigan Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (MACLD).
The Association of Children with Learning Disabilities, a national organization, approved the full charter of the MACLD on March 7, 1969 at the National Conference in Chicago. The name of the Association was changed to the Michigan Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities in 1980, and in 1989, the name was changed to its current form, the Learning Disabilities Association of Michigan (LDA MI). A history of LDA MI from 1965-2003 was published with documents donated to the Bentley Historical Library at University of Michigan in 2003.
In 2004-2005, LDA of Michigan made LDA history by developing the first college chapter of an LDA affiliate. Students at Aquinas College, and soon after at Eastern Michigan University, created campus chapters of LDA of Michigan. These opportunities provided teachers-in-training to connect directly with experts in advocacy, education, and research specific to learning disabilities to help them better understand learning disabilities before entering their classrooms. Leaders of these chapters also served on the state board creating professional networks that continue to strengthen their effectiveness as teachers.
Until 2013, LDA of Michigan’s major projects were: a three-day conference for parents, educators, and individuals with learning disabilities; publication of a quarterly newsletter to members; providing resource information for individuals in Michigan; activities related to the Healthy Children Project; and, working to support local chapters of our State Organization.
Like many state-level conferences, LDA MI saw a decrease in attendance when schools became less and less able to release teachers to attend due to financial constraints, shortages of substitute teachers, and increases in scheduling for state-level assessments. Additionally, LDA of Michigan experienced some significant shifts in volunteer capacity, particularly in 2012 with the passing of one the great LDA of Michigan leaders, Florence Curtis. 2012 was the last Annual Conference hosted by LDA of Michigan.
With the loss of revenue from the Annual Conference and the shift to electronic communications combined with the loss of some key long-term volunteers, LDA of Michigan Board of Directors spent much time during 2013 and 2014 working to assess the viability of the organization. They analyzed the dwindling paid membership numbers, evaluated the absence of an almost full-time volunteer director and experienced a significant shift in board capacity as many long-time members needed to step down. A poll of past and current members was conducted. The Membership and the Board of Directors agreed that the work of LDA of Michigan should continue.
Over the past few years, LDA of Michigan received inquiries from parents, teachers, and educational leaders about attending the LDA of Michigan Conference. LDA MI worked to reinstate this valuable information and networking opportunity in 2020. Due to COVID-19, we were unable to host in-person events so this plan needed to be adjusted. In October 2020, LDA of Michigan hosted the planned keynote session as a webinar which was made available at no charge for LDA Members.
For over 50 years, LDA MI has played an important role in advocating for and helping people with learning disabilities and their families in Michigan and nationally. We continue to promote enhancements in the quality of life for all individuals with learning disabilities and their families as well as the advancement of knowledge about learning disabilities through advocacy, education, training, service, and support of research.