2019 Special Education in Connecticut Summit

May 12, 2020

Given the state of uncertainty for the months ahead amid the current pandemic, our plans to host the Neag School’s fourth annual Special Education Summit in Fall 2020 are on hold. Although we are disappointed, we will look forward to sharing details with you about the next summit, to take place in Fall 2021. 

Our continued thanks to the Klebanoff Institute for their support in working to bring together those who care so deeply about the future of special education.

Please join us for the

2019 Special Education in Connecticut Summit:

“The Science of Dyslexia and Teaching Reading
to Students With Disabilities in Connecticut”

Co-sponsored by the Klebanoff Institute and the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education

Hartford, Conn., skyline.

Post-Event Resources


Event Details

Date: Friday, Oct. 4, 2019

Time: 8:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Cost: $35 per person. Space is limited; you must register by Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. More information on payment options below.

Location: Hartford Marriott Downtown, 200 Columbus Blvd., Hartford, Conn.

Parking: Connecticut Convention Center Garage, 100 Columbus Blvd., Hartford, Conn. Free for registrants. When you arrive to check in at the event, you will receive your parking voucher. More information on parking below.

Registration has now closed.

Overview and Purpose

This summit will provide a unique opportunity for discussion and learning among educators, family/community members, policymakers, and researchers regarding the current state of practice in teaching reading to students with disabilities in Connecticut. Current issues will be discussed, as well as promising instructional practices and research that enhance reading instruction. The day will feature a keynote presentation, an interactive panel, and breakout sessions that include practitioners, advocates, and researchers.

The event will be open to a wide audience with an interest in special education services in Connecticut, including families, advocates, persons with disabilities, legislators, and education professionals.

The Special Education in Connecticut Summit has been made possible through the support of the Klebanoff Institute.

Program Agenda*


8:30-9:30 a.m.: Registration; Coffee and Light Breakfast

Eben McKnight and Jennifer Freeman as panelists at 2018 Special Education Summit
Eben McKnight, State Education Resource Center consultant, and Jennifer Freeman, Neag School assistant professor, serve as panelists in an afternoon session about promoting positive behavior among students with disabilities during the 2018 Summit. (Frank Zappulla/Neag School)


9:30-9:45 a.m.: Welcome Remarks and Introductions


9:45-10:45 a.m.: Keynote Presentation: “Discovering the Reading Science” 

Featuring Emily Hanford, Senior Producer and Correspondent, APM Reports

Emily Hanford is a senior producer and correspondent for APM Reports, the documentary and investigative journalism group at American Public Media. She sent shockwaves across the U.S. and around the globe when her September 2018 audio documentary and article, “Hard Words: Why Aren’t Kids Being Taught to Read?” brought mainstream media attention to the importance of teacher knowledge about the science of reading. In this keynote address, Hanford will tell the story of how she became interested in early reading instruction through first reporting on why students with dyslexia have such a hard time getting what they need in school. It’s clear there are no silver bullets in education, but Hanford has become convinced that improving reading instruction is the closest we’ve got. And while fights about phonics have marred the reading debate for centuries, the bigger question now may be: What else do schools teach? Hanford will discuss the elephants in the room when it comes to how children are taught to read and share insights from the front lines of the ongoing war about reading. There will be time for Q&A.


10:45 - 11 a.m. — Break


11 a.m. - 12 noon — Panel Discussion: “The State of Dyslexia and Teaching Reading in Connecticut”

Panel Moderator: Emily Hanford, APM Reports

  • Melissa HickeyReading/Literacy Director, Connecticut State Department of Education
  • Natalie Jones — Consultant, Bureau of Special Education, Connecticut State Department of Education
  • Jeanne Morgan — Special Education Teacher, Waterford Public Schools; Vice President, Dyslexia Society of Connecticut; Board of Directors, International Dyslexia Association - Connecticut
  • Louise Spear-Swerling — Professor Emerita, Southern Connecticut State University


12 noon - 1 p.m. — Lunch


1-2 p.m. — Afternoon Sessions

Choose between two presentations by scholars in the field

Developing and Evaluating the Connecticut Reading Model, a Multi-Tier, or RTI, Reading Reform Initative

Presenter: Cynthia Pirani-McGurl, Facilitator, HILL for Literacy; Adjunct Professor in the Special Education and Reading Specialist Programs, Fitchburg State University; and Stephney Gonzalez, External Coach, Connecticut Literacy Model Project

The purpose of this session is to present the features of the Connecticut Reading Model designed to support students at risk for reading difficulties and those with reading disabilities, within a multi-tier, or RTI, system of support. Key features of the Model and evaluation data will be presented and discussed. Evaluation data suggest that intervention associated with the reading reform model accelerated students’ beginning reading skills.


David DesRoches as panel moderator
WNPR reporter David DesRoches moderates a panel discussion at the 2017 Special Education in Connecticut Summit. (Nathan Oldham/Neag School)

What Is Dyslexia?

Presenter: Devin Kearns, Associate Professor, Neag School of Education

Serious difficulty with word recognition can have pernicious consequences for students. Many students with word recognition difficulty are identified with a specific learning disability in reading, often dyslexia. There are at least 6 ways to explain the nature of a child’s reading difficulty. Dyslexia is one important cause of word recognition difficulties, but there are others. In this session, I discuss these different causes of reading difficulties and explain some confusing points and controversies related to word recognition difficulty.


2 p.m.: Institute Concludes


*Subject to change


Twitter iconFollow the conversation on Twitter at #SpedSummit.


Summit Participant Bios

Find more information about the Special Education Summit’s participants, including:

Parking Information

Parking is free for event registrants. Park at the Connecticut Convention Center Garage, 100 Columbus Blvd., Hartford, Conn. You will be required to take a parking ticket from the dispenser as you enter the Convention Center garage.

When you arrive to check in at the event, you will receive your parking voucher. Upon exiting the garage at the conclusion of the event, first insert the parking ticket into the gate equipment and then insert the parking voucher. The parking gate will open, and you will be to exit the garage without having to pay a fee.


Accepted forms of payment for the Summit registration fee are either credit card or check. If you need to pay by check, use the promo code “SUMMIT19CHECK” when submitting your online registration, and further payment instructions will be sent to you via email. Please note that payment by check must be received by close of business on Monday, Sept. 16, 2019, in order to allow time for processing.

You may cancel your registration by reaching out to LeShonda Owens in the Neag School Dean’s Office at leshonda.owens@uconn.edu

For cancellations received by 5 p.m. EST, Sept. 23, 2019: Full refund.
For cancellations after 5 p.m. EST, Sept. 23, 2019: No refunds will be issued. 

*If you do not attend and do not cancel in accordance with the above guidelines, you will be responsible for the full registration fee.*

Learn More


This event has been made possible through the generous support of the Klebanoff Institute.