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Can I Go to College with a Learning Disability?

Students with learning disabilities make a much larger populations on every (yes, that’s right, every) college campus then you may know. In fact, the report from the National Center for Education Statistics exposes the surprising numbers. The statistic for women undergraduate students who have self-reported a learning disability is 19.6% and 19.2% for men. As far as graduate students go the numbers are 9.9% percent of men and 13.5% women. In the Fall of 2017 enrollment statistics clarified that 20.4 million students were attending college in the United States with a diagnosed learning disability. This number translates to 200,000 incoming freshmen requiring services for their disability to be successful at their institution of higher learning. 

Learning disabilities do not discriminate, even on Ivy League campuses. This fact proves that point that a learning disability does not have to get in the way of a successful academic career and even professional life path. While there might the best colleges for students with dyslexia, for example, any postsecondary institution should offer effective provisions, ensuring that you should not have to pick an institution based on your disability. When researching accommodations, it doesn’t hurt to find the top colleges for students with learning disabilities, as reported by consumers.  It might not be obvious at first glance of a college campus the myriad of resources available to make postsecondary accessible to students with disabilities. However, it is important that students with disabilities be their own advocates to seek the proper accommodations and resources available to them. Being able to find what the institution offers will ensure they have what they need to be successful college students. 

The impact of a learning disability

Often students with learning disabilities have struggled with them their entire lives. It may be a matter of always feeling like an age-appropriate curriculum is hard to understand at the same pace as their peers. It could be a result of traditional teaching methods, or not knowing when or how to take appropriate breaks. This could include physical movement, games, or mixing up the learning models in between blocks of academic engagement. There has been a significant amount of research conducted on learning styles and accommodating students with learning differences. When such provisions are employed, it is clear that students with a variety of learning styles and needs can access in any environment. 

Types of Learning Differences:

There are many, however, these tend to be the most commonly reported on college campuses

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)- In a nutshell- difficulty paying attention for periods of time, staying focused, and on-task
  • Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)- Similar to ADD with added agitation and hyperactivity. This might include behavioral and social issues. 
  • Auditory Processing Deficit- This refers to a struggle to understand and process what they hear
  • Dyscalculia- difficulty comprehending sequences of numbers and, therefore, struggle with most mathematic equations
  • Dysgraphia- Difficulty with writing. This can include spelling, grammar,  sentence structure, and may even apply to handwriting
  • Dyslexia- This applies to reading and words in general. Sometimes people with dyslexia switch the order of words and even numbers. Dyslexia at college is one of the most reported learning disabilities.
  • Visual Processing Deficit- This refers to the struggles related to visual information and visual literacy

Accommodations for Students with Learning Disabilities 

There are many ways to students with learning disabilities can receive accommodations and tailored serves on college campuses that enable them to still be present in class, take tests, and participate with their peers in a way that doesn’t stigmatize them. 

This can include:
  • Receiving modifications to the course content- this may include delivery method, receiving supplementary materials, and accessing the same content with a more tailored approach from faculty
  • Alternative testing methods and coursework- this may include receiving a test in a different format, for example, an oral exam instead of a scantron test, and likewise for learning materials. An example of course material accommodations may be a book on tape rather than reading a text. 
  • Adaptive Software Technology- This may include stress reduction software, of programs that type while you speak, etc
  • Classroom accommodations- This may include having an in-class note-taker that shares her notes, having a separate quiet room to take exams, which may include having different time provisions, class assistants, or even accessible seating might be on the list for such accommodations.

Having a disability does not need to be stigmatized, nor does it suggest you are not a good student or a good fit for higher learning. There are many new opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in academia with self-determination and success. Every academic institution should have a Disability Resources Center. Don’t be shy to use this to your advantage. Such resources can not only provide offerings that you may not have known existed to make learning more accessible, but they also offer a space to meet other students who may have similar struggles.

Related:
The Complete Guide to College for Students with Disabilities
What if My College Isn’t ADA Compliant?
What is a TPSID?