A learning disability is a permanent (cognitive) disorder that affects the manner in which individuals with average to above average intelligence take in, retain, and/or express information. Like interference on the radio or a fuzzy TV picture, incoming or outgoing information may become scrambled as it travels between the eye or ear and the brain.
Key points to remember:
- Someone with a learning disability has average to above average intelligence
- A learning disability is a processing problem that affects ability to understand or express oral or written information
- A learning disability may affect reading, written expression, math, or learning a foreign language
- A learning disability may also affect organizational skills, time management, or social skills
A learning disability can be extremely FRUSTRATING. Students are frequently:
- FRUSTRATED with struggling and failing and having it insinuated that they're not capable
- FRUSTRATED with being called lazy when in fact they may be putting in twice the hours studying as most students in the class with less results
- FRUSTRATED at rushing through tests and still not finishing in time
- FRUSTRATED at not only having to deal with functional limitations, but also with the frustration of having to "prove" that their invisible disabilities exist and may be as disabling as a physical disability
A Learning Disability is NOT a form of mental retardation, an emotional disorder, or an attention deficit disorder.
A student with a learning disability may:
- Demonstrate marked difficulty in reading, written expression and/or using numerical concepts in contrast with average to superior skills in other areas
- Have trouble reading for an extended time period, often fatiguing after ten to twenty minutes
- Have trouble maintaining the line when reading. Have difficulty regaining the next line. May have developed coping style of using finger or ruler to help with this problem
- Exhibit poor paragraph development, sentence structure or mechanics, yet be a student whose spoken language is superior
- Have trouble determining main ideas when reading
- Have poorly formed handwriting--print instead of using script; write with an inconsistent slant; have difficulty with certain letters; space words unevenly
- Have trouble listening to a lecture and taking notes at the same time
- Be easily distracted by background noise or visual stimulation
- Confuse similar letters such as b and d, or p and q; confuses the order of letters in words repeating was for saw, hte for the; may misspell the same word several different ways in the same composition
- Omit or add words, particularly when reading aloud
- Confuse similar numbers such as 3 and 8, or 6 and 9, or change the sequence of numbers such as 14 and 41; have difficulty copying numbers accurately and working with numbers in columns. Seem disorganized in space--confuse up and down, right and left; get lost in building; is disoriented when a familiar environment is rearranged
- Have similar problems problems as those listed above in your first lanaguge if English is not your first language.
A learning disability does not prohibit success; many famous people have (or had) a learning disability. A partial list includes: Albert Einstein, Robin Williams, Bruce Jenner, Tom Cruise, Michelangelo, Leonardo de Vinci, Thomas Edison, George Patton, James Joyce, and Cher.
How do you find out if you have a learning disability?
Disabiity Support Services (DSS) provides diagnostic testing for Southwestern College students.
Learning disabilities testing is completed during one-to-one appointments with a Learning Disabilities Specialist. The testing takes 5 - 7 hours and is completed over several testing sessions.
If you have previous verification of a Learning Disability
Students who have previously been tested and know that they have a learning disability can apply for DSS services. You must provide written documentation of your learning disability. This must include test results from your high school, a previously attended college, or from a professional educational practitioner. With this documentation, DSS services and accommodations are usually arranged. However, if testing is more than three years old, updated testing might be required.
How can DSS help you?
Students with learning disabilities often receive one or more of the following academic accommodations:
- Extended time and/or a reader for tests
- Use of a tape recorder or a notetaker in class
- Textbooks on CD
- Priority Registration