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The Story of Sally L. Smith at American University

October 31, 2021

The partnership between American University and The Lab School of Washington, and AU offering the master of arts in special education focusing on learning disabilities, began with Sally L. Smith. Smith founded The Lab School in 1967 to teach students like her son Gary, who had learning differences. The idea for the school began when Smith discovered that the elaborate, creative, hands-on birthday parties that she’d planned for her sons provided him with an environment where he could learn and remember academic material. What started as birthday parties soon became a teaching methodology as Smith realized that a multi-sensory approach to learning helped students with learning disabilities succeed. In 1975, Smith became an adjunct professor in SOE, and in 1976, she became the director of the master’s program in special education: learning disabilities.

Today, AU’s School of Education carries on some of Smith’s work through the:

You may read more about Sally’s life and work by reading her biography “Sally’s Genius,” her book “Power of the Arts,” seeing the Sally L. Smith Papers housed at American University, or visiting the national International Dyslexia Assocation site.

The  Sally L. Smith Distinguished Lecture Series

The Inaugural Lecture, Oct. 1, 2022

Attendees at the Sally L. Smith Distiguished Lecture series.

The School of Education held the first inaugural Sally L. Smith Distinguished Lecture, in person at American University and via Zoom on October 1, 2022. The event featured an informative lecture titled “Dyslexia in the 21st Century: Science Bringing Hope to Children Who Are Dyslexic” given by preeminent dyslexia experts and award-winning co-authors of the book Overcoming Dyslexia, Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D. and Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D.

Sally Smith Lecture Attendees.

Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D. is the Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at Yale University and with her husband Bennett, is the co-founder and co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. Dr. Shaywitz is the author of over 350 scientific articles and chapters, and the book Overcoming Dyslexia, now in its second edition and in it, Dr. Shaywitz incorporates the latest breakthroughs in science, educational methods, technology, and a major step forward in legal actions that will lead to great accommodations in schools. Dr. Shaywitz has served on the Congressionally-mandated National Reading Panel and the Committee to Prevent Reading Difficulties in Young Children of the National Research Council and, by presidential appointment (President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama) on the National Board of the Institute for Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education. 

Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D. is the Charles and Helen Schwab Professor in Dyslexia and Learning Development at Yale University. As a physician-scientist Dr. Shaywitz performs cutting-edge neuroscience research to advance the neuroscience of dyslexia. He is dedicated to ensuring that scientific progress in dyslexia is translated into policy and practice. Dr. Shaywitz’s work examines differences in brain connectivity between dyslexic and typical reading children, revealing that in dyslexia brain connectivity is disrupted to the word-form area, an area critical to reading fluency, and that connectivity is disrupted between reading and attention systems.

More photos from the event may be viewed here.