I met Lynn Meltzer at Children’s Hospital in Boston 31 years ago, when I took a sabbatical from classroom teaching at Concord Carlisle High School in Concord, MA. I remember wintry days, shivering while driving to work in Lynn’s old VW van. Lynn and I spent a lot of time sharing our dreams and envisioning the creation of a place where kids who learn differently didn’t have to go to a hospital and feel like something was wrong with them; a place where they could understand their strengths relative to their weaknesses, realize their potential, and build their self-esteem. How could we establish an organization in the community, not in a hospital setting, that combined Lynn’s private practice (neuropsychological evaluations) and commitment to research with my private practice (one-to-one educational therapy) and dedication to teaching and special education? Our backgrounds and interests merged when we decided to set up a center that offered psychological as well as educational services and cutting edge research, one that combined theory with practice within an applied developmental model. In 1988, the Institute for Learning and Development was born. ResearchILD—our non-profit educational research organization—was formally launched about 7 years later.
In our time together, we have never let that vision fade. We have grown our practice from a small place in Chelmsford, MA to our current location in Lexington, MA where we not only provide one-on-one education therapy or therapeutic tutoring, but also neuropsychological evaluations, executive function coaching, speech and language services, counseling, and a slew of workshops and classes for students, parents and professionals. These students still remain at the core of what we do, and we are incredibly proud that we can tout a qualified, caring, and devoted staff of the highest caliber. Over three decades, I have met so many parents (nearly 3000!) who come to us, some feeling hopeless, guilty, or overwhelmed, not knowing what to do to help their child find success in school. And I’ve watched many students grow and develop over time, experiencing success that they never imagined was within their reach. It has been incredible to see students grow into adults who appreciate this experience enough to bring their own children through our doors. Truly, seeing the progress that the students have made, the academic success they have achieved, and their increased self-confidence and self-esteem reminds me every day that the community vision Lynn and I started out with is, and always will be, at our core.
This past spring marked the 30th anniversary of our Learning Differences Conference, which ResearchILD holds annually at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. This conference, which Lynn founded 30 years ago when we were still working at Children’s Hospital, has been graced by the presence of many of our esteemed colleagues, including Robert Brooks, Karen Harris, Maryanne Wolf, Tony Bashir, Howard Gardner, David Rose, Ned Hallowell, and more. I simply cannot believe that this dream we spoke about theoretically 31 years ago has now touched the lives of over 7,000 conference participants and speakers. I am continually humbled by the sheer volume of that number.
Recognizing a need for more targeted professional development in the area o f executive function (EF), we started the Executive Function Conference seven years ago and this conference has grown exponentially in popularity. It continues to serve as a meaningful opportunity for our staff to share our knowledge of EF strategies with teachers, administrators and psychologists alike. This past year, we drew in participants from as far away as Mumbai, an indicator for us that our research and our life’s work are still extremely relevant in the field.
With ResearchILD’s newest endeavor, the SMARTS Online Executive Function Curriculum, we now have a chance to reach thousands of people with just the click of a button. It is our sincere hope that with this program we can share the knowledge we have garnered over the past 30 years and that we can truly bring our vision full circle. With the power of the internet, we now have a very real opportunity to create a space—in schools and homes around the world—where students can learn about themselves, think about the way they process information, and develop the strategies that work best for them without having to feel shame or discomfort.
We hope that this blog serves to further that vision by sharing with you tried and true strategies that we know work, by presenting the writing of our staff members, and by sharing relevant research in the field of learning differences. This blog—Pathways to Success—has the potential to expand the community that we first envisioned so many years ago. We’ve come a long way from those cold wintery days back in Lynn’s van. Ultimately, the vision remains the same. ILD, the Institute for Learning and Development, transforms the life of one student at a time; ResearchILD transforms the lives of students all over the world.
I do hope you you’ll check in from time to time. By doing so, you will help us expand our community, truly bringing our dreams to fruition.
Bethany Roditi, Ph.D.,
Cofounder and Director of Education, ILD