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Launching LD OnLine

A Letter from Noel Gunther


Here is the original letter from Noel Gunther, executive director of LD OnLine, announcing the launch of LD OnLine in 1996:

Red Smith once said that around the racetrack, an expert is someone who’s been right once. Maybe on the Internet, an expert is someone who has created one site. If so, we’re all experts here – because this is our first site.

LD OnLine is a collaboration between public broadcasting and the learning disabilities community. I work for WETA TV26/FM91, the public broadcasting station in Washington. Our station has made a long-term commitment to learning disabilities. We’ve worked on three TV programs featuring Richard Lavoie, a nationally-known educator and speaker. We produced a radio documentary about how kids develop and learn, and recently we taped a new TV show with Dr. Bob Brooks. While working on those shows, we’ve met scores of parents and teachers who were desperate to learn more about learning disabilities. So we decided to move beyond radio and TV and create something on the Internet.

I’m pretty new to the Internet and often I still find it frustrating. The Internet is showing us, for better and for worse, what life would be like if we all had our own magazine or TV station. I love the quirkiness, but at times I wonder: Are there any editors out there? On a bad day, cruising through the Internet feels like clicking very slowly through 10,000 cable channels and finding nothing to watch. But on a good day, you can discover something so inventive or so satisfyingly obscure that you can’t help but feel better about the world. And you can do it at 3 a.m., when everyone else is asleep.

Why should anyone hang out here, at LD OnLine? Our primary goal is to provide reliable information to anyone who needs it. We’re offering audio clips from experts we admire, like Rick Lavoie, and Bob Brooks. We’ve tried to create a reasonably comprehensive national calendar. We’ve gathered detailed articles in the LD In-Depth section. LD OnLine is still a work in progress, but we hope that ultimately even seasoned special ed teachers and well-versed parents will find something fresh on the site.

But we’re also thinking about people who are new to learning disabilities – a first-year teacher with six special ed kids in her class, a father thinking for the first time that his child may have a learning disability, a kid wondering if anyone else feels the way he does. We’ve tried to make the site accessible to everyone. We’ve done our best to keep jargon to a minimum.

Most important to me, we plan to showcase the work of children with learning disabilities. Artist of the Week and Writer of the Week give kids a chance to show us their best stuff – and to give a cousin or a grandparent 1000 miles away a chance to see it. We hope to make KidZone a place where children can speak for themselves, instead of having adults talk about them all the time.

In producing our radio and TV shows, we’ve gotten to know some of the national leaders in the field of learning disabilities. Luckily for us, many of them agreed to help with LD OnLine. The Parents’ Educational Research Center, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities, the Orton Dyslexia Society, NICHCY, and the Learning Disabilities Association have generously contributed some of their fine material to our site. We are especially grateful to Alexa Culwell (of PERC) and Shirley Cramer (of the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities) who with unfailing grace have given us sound advice, frequent encouragement, and more help than we ever imagined possible. And thanks to Bonnie Kessler, Sheldon Horowitz, and David Fleishman for making NCLD the first national organization to join us.

Anyone who has heard public broadcasting beg for money knows how much we depend on the kindness of strangers. We’ve gotten extraordinary contributions from two volunteers: Gene Cowan, who gave up nights and weekends to design our site (except for the logo), and Christine Sills, who spent most of her summer helping turn a skeletal idea into a prototype version of our site.

Thank you above all to Christian Lindstrom and Candace Cortiella, whose skill and dedication have made LD OnLine a reality.

Rick Lavoie says that we know how to educate a child with a learning disability. The real challenge, he says, is to educate those who don’t have one – the parents, teachers, coaches, neighbors, relatives, and friends who interact with our kids every day. We hope that LD OnLine will help.

Thanks a lot for finding us. Please come back.

Noel Gunther
Executive Director, LD OnLine

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