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Low Funding Forces Cutbacks at Advocacy Group for Black Youth With Disabilities

The 15-year-old National Assocation for the Education of African American Children with Learning Differences, based in Columbus, Ohio, is curtailing most activities beginning in January due to a lack of funding, said Nancy Tidwell, the organization's president and founder. 

"It's very frustrating," Tidwell said in an interview, particularly because the educational outcomes for black children with disabilities is often so poor. Educating families about how best to advocate for their children was a key part of the organization's mission, she said, and that work was explored in a 2003 article in Education Week. The group also received a grant in 2012 to continue its parent-training efforts. 

AACLD was originally founded as a group representing African-American children with learning disabilities, which represents the most common disability category for children of all races. About 42 percent of black students ages 6-21 with disabilities are categorized as having "specific learning disabilities," according to the most recent analysis from the U.S. Department of Education's office of special education programs. That compares to 37 percent of white children with disabilities, 50 percent of Hispanic children, and 27 percent of Asian children. 

A year ago, however, the group changed its name to indicate a broader focus on learning differences of all kinds. That change was intended to allow the organization to work on problems of overidentification, underidentification, and misdiagnosis for black children in special education. 

Tidwell said that the group plans to revamp its website and include parent resources and, possibly, a platform for parents to communicate with each other. The organization also plans to continue its work on a parent-training program, she said. 

 

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