5 Things We Learned About Latinos and Learning Differences at NCLR

In July, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) held its annual conference in Orlando, Florida. It’s the largest gathering of its kind in the Latino community, and the Understood team was there.

Latinos now make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, and more than 25 percent of its public school students. So it’s no surprise the Latino community is focused on education.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King delivered NCLR’s keynote address. He called for equal educational opportunity for Latino students. He spoke about the new federal education law—the Every Student Succeeds Act—and its promise for all students, including Latinos.

Understood founding partner the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) presented a panel on personalized learning. It focused on meeting the needs of students learning English who have learning differences. And experts from Understood held a panel on the Latino community’s perspective on learning and thinking differences.

Throughout the conference, the Understood team staffed an information booth for families. We listened to the needs and concerns of the Latino community. Here are five things that became clear to us at the conference.

1. Latinos are part of the 1 in 5.

“At Understood’s information booth, we talked to more than 1,000 individuals and families. As soon as we mentioned issues like ADHD and dyslexia, the floodgates opened. An astonishing number of our visitors identified themselves, their children, or someone they knew as having learning and thinking differences.

“For me, the proof was in the pudding—Latinos are part of the 1 in 5 children. It was heartwarming to hear Latino families share their stories, ask questions and scoop up our postcards and information. There’s clearly a need for Understood’s resources in this underserved community.”—Ginny Osewalt, Special Education Teacher and Understood Expert

2. Latinos are talking about learning and thinking differences.

“What impressed me at NCLR was the level of awareness. Latino families are starting to open up. They want to share their struggles, needs and successes. They want information to help their kids in school.

“Now more than ever, Latino families need support from their schools, communities and country. They need to feel accepted and embraced.”—Heidi Guzman, Mathematics Teacher, GRASP Academy, and Parent Advocate

3. Latinos are using Understood resources.

“As an expert for Understood, I sometimes wonder if I’m really reaching families. But at NCLR, my concerns were answered, and it was eye-opening.

“I met the young mom of a 5-year-old with learning differences. She’d already requested services and support for her son with the help of Understood’s resources. This made it evident to me that we’re helping people become advocates for themselves and for their kids.”—Claudia Rinaldi, Professor of Education, Lasell College, and Understood Expert

4. Stigma is real, and storytelling can help fight it.

“In the Latino community, as with other communities, stigma about these issues is real. Not every parent is ready to accept that their child has ADHD or another issue.

“I learned at the conference that storytelling can help fight stigma. Learning and thinking differences may be invisible, but stories are not.

“One Latino student I listened to explained how she found success in school with learning differences. She talked about having the support of her parents, especially her mom. Her story can help other Latino parents accept their kids’ challenges, and get them the support and help they need.”—Gaby Bobadilla, Understood Spanish Editor

5. Cultural sensitivity is key to reaching Latinos.

“Learning issues are blind to borders and ethnicity. For Latino children, I think it’s critical for teachers to not only understand best teaching practices, but also have cultural sensitivity.

“That means understanding that for many Latinos, the education system is highly regarded. Latinos typically aren’t accustomed to advocating or challenging a school’s advice. And teachers should also know that Latino families are more successful when they feel engaged, supported and respected.

“I was personally moved by a teacher at the Understood panel. After listening to the panel, she said she was so excited to go back to her school and share what she learned about the positive impact cultural sensitivity can have in the classroom. I think we hit the mark in helping schools be more inclusive and understanding of their Latino students.”—Claudia Koochek, Head of School, Westmark School

Find out what experts are saying about learning and thinking differences in the Hispanic community.

About the author

About the author

The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.