A learning disability may be defined as:
...a one of the heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. These disorders occur in persons of average to very superior intelligence and are presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. Even though a learning disability may exist concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (e.g., sensory impairments) or environmental influences (e.g., cultural/language difficulties), it is not the direct result of these conditions or influences.
As increasing numbers of students with learning disabilities are pursuing higher education as an option (Astin, Green, Korn, Sohalit, and Berg, 1988. U.S. Department of Education, 1987), consideration must be given to a number of issues relating to the implementation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 in the post secondary setting. Section 504 as it applies to post secondary institutions stipulates that a recipient shall operate each program or activity so the program or activity, when viewed in its entirety is readily accessible to handicapped persons (Section 104.22(a.)) This provision applies to the physical facilities on campus, as well as aspects of a students life, including admissions, recruitment to academic programs, and academic adjustments (Brinkerhoff, Shaw and McGuire, August 1992.)
It is the goal (philosophy) of this program to provide supportive services (i.e., learning strategies, study skills, self advocacy, understanding strengths and weaknesses) through monitoring services (i.e., independent application of learning strategic s etc., planning for independence, utilizing other campus resources) to ultimately work towards independence using the DSS program for consultation and support on an as needed basis.
At the post secondary level, once documentation of the learning disability is obtained (including a complete psychoeducational assessment), it is the responsibility of the Services to Students with Disabilities Office (SSD) to respond to the students request for services. The provision of services is required only if the student informs SSD of a disabling condition and requests services.
Academic adjustments may include adaptations in the manner in which a course section is conducted, use of auxiliary equipment, and modifications in academic requirements. Specific examples include administering an exam with additional time in a private room, or permitting a student to tape record lectures. Typically, auxiliary aids for students with learning disabilities include access to taped textbooks, readers, computers, and lecture notes.
Adaptive computing hard- and software targeted for visually impaired students are often quite useful for students with learning disabilities, particularly those with written language difficulties. For many, composing at a computer rather than with a pencil and paper much more effectively facilitates the creative process. Furthermore, a voice navigational system can also enhance their proofing and editing skills.
The appropriate services for each individual are determined by the Services for Students with Disabilities staff through the interpretation of the students diagnostic assessment and history. It is important for the student to make a timely request for services.
It is essential to recognize the individual nature of a learning disability for any student that requests services. SSD, together with the student and faculty, will often work to develop a means of effectively meeting the individuals needs.
Some students are unable to communicate effectively through printing or cursive writing (dysgraphia.) This condition may manifest itself in written work that appears careless. For such students, oral examinations and reports are more valid evaluations of what has been learned. some of these students may be unable to use the typewriter for written communication. Another solution is for the student to dictate answers to a scribe.
Other students may have difficulty processing information received auditorily, such as in a class lecture. Many of the adapted techniques that assist a student who is deaf will also assist these students: movies, role playing, captioned audio visual materials. Still other student will have difficulty with sequential memory tasks involving letters (spelling), numbers (mathematics), and following step-by-step instructions. For these students it will help to break up tasks into smaller parts. Tutoring in math and spelling usually will be required. In general, the students learn better when multiple sensory modalities are used in the teaching/learning process: visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic.
Because the expectation is that a college student will absorb information, communicate it and be evaluated through the printed page, the student with a learning disability may need assistance and support from professors in finding innovative way s of receiving and transmitting information and in being evaluated. Because a learning disability is hidden, the instructor may have understandable doubts about the validity of these alternative approaches. However, the fact remains that the students capacity for learning is intact. It is only the means by which information is processed that is different.