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Westport Learning Disabilities Group Honors Mom

Judi Bernstein learned the hard way to guide her learning disabled son to emotional safety. The Westport native spent years navigating among special education and regular teachers to balance her child's need to plan for every contingency and handle the surprises that define life.

Bernstein, who now lives in Tampa, Fla., will be honored Friday by Smart Kids With Learning Disabilities as a guiding force for other parents, educating and encouraging them to help their learning disabled children succeed. It is the first time in its 11-year history that the Westport-based organization has presented a service award to someone who is neither a celebrity nor a special-education professional.

"Judi has been so powerful reaching out to other parents," Jane Ross, a co-founder and director of the organization, said in a telephone interview. "It's time to publicly recognize that."

"The Sky's the Limit" anniversary gala , to be held at the Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk, will be a night of many firsts. Stamford's Ryan Haggerty is the first Connecticut resident to win Smart Kids' top Youth Achievement Award. The teenager recently helped the United States claim the gold medal in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship . Jonathan Mooney , who co-wrote "Learning Outside the Lines," will MC the evening, which will offer a live auction, wine auction and dancing to NDR, Fairfield County's Almost All-Physician Rock Band.

"Selecting the youth award winner was a tough choice, since our committee had to weigh the amazing accomplishments of 140 LD kids from 36 states to single-out one for this honor," Ross said.

Tickets to "The Sky's the Limit" may be purchased at www.SmartKidsWithLD.org , the organization's website, or by e-mailing Info@SmartKidswithLD.org .

Has the work of Smart Kids With Learning Disabilities made a difference for your family? Tell us your story below.

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