About Us

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About Us

History of IDA Virginia

The Virginia Branch began with a small nucleus of people in Charlottesville. Rebecca Richardson, had moved to Virginia in 1966 and had received training at the Massachusetts General Hospital Language Clinic under Dr. Edwin Cole and Alice Garside. Dr. Cole, the Director of the Language Clinic, had been an associate of Dr. Samuel Orton’s at the Language Research Project of New York Neurological Institute early in the ’30s. Mrs. Garside was the chief of the reading program at the Language Clinic. She established The Reading Center, where she began to train others to work with individuals with dyslexia. Mrs. Garside brought Alice Koontz to teach a week-long course at the University of Virginia in the Summer of 1974.

Helen Miller, our first Branch President, and her successor, Roxanne Broadbent, were among Alice’s students. These individuals, along with others who had been touched by Rebecca and Alice, discussed the possibility of starting a Virginia Branch. Others involved included Dr. Booker and his son, Buzz; Margaret Via; Bob Patterson; Lois Wolf; Pat Talley; Ann Tuley; Carolee Mountcastle; Nancy Jane Boulton; Cynthia Cass (Cleveland); Margy Whelan; and Kathy Bonnie. All were present at the first recorded Board meeting on July 15, 1976. Mrs. Rebecca Richardson was the driving force behind all these initial efforts.

Early meetings and activities of Board Members focused upon securing a recognized Branch. The Advisory Board in these early years included Mary Masland, Roger Saunders, Margaret Rawson, and Gene Watson, all of whom played important roles in securing the “roots” of this young organization.

Rebecca Richardson became a member of the Board in August, 1979 and Mary Cheatham in September, 1984. Mrs. Masland and Mrs. Richardson remained members of the Advisory Board for many years. The Rebecca Brock Richardson Award is given annually to an individual one who has furthered the cause of the VBIDA.

The first public meeting of the Central Virginia Branch as a provisional branch was held on November 18, 1976, in Charlottesville with 213 people in attendance from all over the state. In 1991, representatives from the Tidewater area of Virginia were added to the Board and a very successful annual conference was held in that part of the State in 1992. An Annual Conference has been part of the history of the Branch. Due to recent re-structuring, the Conference has been postponed for several years. It will be re-instituted as soon as restructuring is completed.

In 1979, the name of the Branch changed from the Central Virginia Branch to the Virginia Branch to reflect the inclusion of members throughout the State. Northern Virginia, however, continues to remain part of the D.C. Capital Area Branch.

The Branch continues to expand its outreach programs. The Branch now consists in four regions of the State: Southwest, Central, Capital, and Tidewater. Directors from each region are present at Board meetings in order to address the unique needs of each regional area. The Branch has also brought other State learning disability organizations together so that all could speak with a common voice on pertinent issues.

From 1991-1999, the Branch has been actively addressing educational regulations and policies at the State level. These included issues of teacher licensure, standards of accreditation, special education regulations, participation of students with disabilities in the statewide assessment programs and other policies affecting students with Dyslexia. The parent organization of the International Dyslexia Association has adopted a formal program to address teacher licensure and education in the area of structured language interventions.

The Virginia Branch is proud of its heritage and looks forward to continuing our mission to expand services to the citizens of Virginia. We wish to make a difference in the lives of children and adults with Dyslexia.

August, 2013 – Board Member Patti Watson adapted this “A Brief History of the Virginia Branch,” originally written by Ruth Harris, March, 1996 and formerly updated August, 2005.

The VBIDA appreciates all those who served as Branch Presidents: Helen Miller; Roxanne Broadbent; Cindy Cleveland; Jean Lindsay; Ruth Harris; Barbara Whitwell; Jo Ann Fallow; Harley Tomey; Connie Porter; Ann Hicks; Sherrell Sherron; Rebecca H. Aldred; MaryAnne Dukas, Debra Farrar, Leslie Daise, and Shana Hatzopoulos. The Branch also acknowledges Harley Tomey’s support for many years as an energetic Branch President and as a member of the International Board of Directors, and as President of IDA.

Lisa Harrah is the current President of the Virginia Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.