What To Do If . . . You Have A Learning Disability

Posted September 28, 2007 by

If you have a learning disability and you’re planning to go to college, here’s some good news: most colleges and universities provide a wide range of services to help learning-disabled students succeed in the classroom and have a full and complete college experience. How can you be sure that the colleges you’re applying to have what you need? Here are some tips.

First and most important, according to Barbara Strickler, V.P. for Enrollment at the University of Tampa, evaluate colleges in exactly the same way you would if you didn’t have a disability: that is, by thinking about the kind of college experience you want and asking yourself what’s most important to you. A short list of very important considerations might include geographic location/distance from home, campus size, proximity to cities or towns, majors offered, varsity and intramural athletic opportunities, extracurriculars, the social scene, and so on. Be sure to check out the average class size and student-faculty ratio. Small classes and a low student-faculty ratio often mean more personal attention and a greater willingness to accommodate special needs.
Of course, you should also consider how well a college can help you with your particular disability. You can make that assessment in three ways: by researching a college before a campus visit; by paying close attention to physical and academic resources during the visit; and by asking good questions. Not all admissions offices can conduct personal interviews with prospective students, but campus visits are always encouraged.

On-campus help
The most important resource a college can provide for a student with a disability is a well-staffed, accessible learning center. Check out the learning center during your campus visit and ask questions about the kinds of services it offers.

  • Is the learning center staffed by full-time professionals?
  • Are tutors available and is tutoring free?
  • Can you get help with study and organizational skills, research, and writing assignments?
  • Are you comfortable with the people you met during your visit there?

In addition to these important questions about services and staffing in the learning center, try to assess the campus atmosphere: a welcoming, supportive campus atmosphere may be critical to your success, both in and out of the classroom.
But Barbara Strickler cautions students not to raise the issue of their disability prematurely–that is, during the admissions process. Colleges are not permitted to consider a student’s disability in assessing his or her candidacy for admission. When you have been admitted, you can disclose your disability and find out how to request special accommodations, such as untimed tests, note-takers, tutors, and so on.
Finally, you’ll need to document your disability in order to take advantage of special campus services.
Having a learning disability may be a challenge for you, but it won’t keep you from having a great college experience.
Article by Paul Adams and courtesy of www.careersandcolleges.com

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