Students with language-based learning disabilities are well aware that reading, writing, learning and studying will take extra effort and time. But, do their supporters, friends and professors understand their needs and abilities?
We teamed up with three college students to hear about their diagnoses, study habits and the tools they are using to finish their degrees successfully for our webinar titled, 9 Things You Didn’t Know About LD College Students
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At the end of the event, we still had several questions coming in from attendees. We’ve compiled a few more answers from our college students below.
What are your best study tips? How do you integrate information from class notes, textbooks, PowerPoint slides, etc. effectively?
I do my best to not psych myself out too much before tests, no matter the importance. I always try to be as comfortable as possible when I study too because it can be stressful. As far as integrating everything goes, I do my best to plan out my time to decide if I can go through all of my notes, lecture notes, textbooks and old homework and practice tests. I usually make sure to at least reference my notes and textbooks while running through old homework problems to make sure I know how to do those problems right. After I run through the homework, I make sure to know WHY the problem was solved in a certain way and think about other questions the professor could ask. This helps me dive into the material more to make sure I truly understand it. I often cannot study for more than a few hours straight, so I try to go running or do something active to get my study "mojo" back and keep grinding through it.
Then going into the test, I tell myself that I have done all that I could have studying-wise and that I'm going to do great, which helps take away some of the test taking anxiety. –Jack
Do you recommend taking fewer classes per semester?
For me, I took fewer classes per semester especially in my first two years at the university that I attended, Muskingum University. I took 12 credits per semester and then as I felt comfortable with the workload, tutoring, and my social life, I took more credits hours. In this way, I could lay out my day and week with time to myself, which is very important! As long as you feel comfortable with your schedule and time to complete everything, that is what really matters. –Morgan
Throughout my college career, I have only lessened up on my course load as a freshman (because our advisers wouldn't let us take more than four classes), but since then I have been in 6 classes per semester through my sophomore and junior year because of major requirements and minors I am pursuing. I would not recommend this to anyone unless absolutely necessary because it's been crazy. I tend to procrastinate if I don't have enough to do, so I thrive when I am very busy, but I think I also could have done better with less classes because I felt very thinly spread. I didn't feel like I had the time to dive into the material as much as I could/should have. So, taking less classes is a good way to get your bearings of college as a freshman and then if you can stay motivated to really
study for everything - taking textbook notes, going to office hours and doing homework well - then it would be worth taking a lighter load. –Jack
I want to know how you got from that sense of feeling different and not very accepting to the point of feeling that your difference makes you unique and you have something special to offer the world? What helped you get there?
I believe that it was a gradual increase and it did not happen overnight. I also believe that my family’s support has allowed me to become more confident in my ability to learn. –Colleen
What role does the disabilities office play in you choosing classes, working with professors, advising accommodations?
The way that my disabilities services office works is that they provide me with disability letters via email addressed to each of my professors at the beginning of the semester to take to each of my professors in person to discuss my accommodations (extended time testing) for the upcoming semester. To date, I have yet to have a professor not comply with this letter, but if there were to be an issue, I would seek the disability services office for help in that conflict. I do most of my advising sessions through the engineering school because the curriculum is very structured. – Jack
If you could tell a group of disability service officers ONE thing what would it be?
If I could tell the Disability Service Office one thing, I would tell them to acknowledge the variety of ways to study and complete tasks. Sometimes students need a different way of explaining the materials than how the professor had explained. –Colleen
Did you investigate and consider which college to attend based on support for learning disabilities? Do you have any advice or feedback on that part of the decision making process?
I made sure to visit disability services offices at the schools when I was touring them either after being admitted or before applying. I made sure to ask them what kind of accommodations they could grant me because that could have made an impact on my decision based on their responses. Both of the schools I was considering were both very welcoming and guaranteed that I would be given accommodations, so it's a good thing to check on. – Jack
The college that I attended, Muskingum University, was known for their support center, called the PLUS Program. When I was applying, they just celebrated their 25 year. I knew that I wanted to find out more about this program and was really amazed when I visited the campus. There were many resources/accommodations that the PLUS Program provided, such as, Learning Ally, note takers, people to read tests to you while taking tests, and computers for taking tests, extended time, quiet room, calculator if needed. –Morgan
At what age were you when you accepted that learning is ultimately your own responsibility and took on that responsibility to learn (asking help and getting accommodations as needed) ... In other words, when did you become motivated to learn rather than just play?
I became more motivated with my learning during high school. In my elementary school years, I did not understand what it meant to have a learning difference. I also believe, as you grow older you have more of an appreciation of learning. –Colleen
What documentation do you have to support that you have dyslexia. Anything from high school /doctor?
I have a formal diagnosis from private psychological testing for dyslexia, but nothing from my doctor or high school. – Jack
It sounds like your tutors, your A-team folks at school, were pretty available. How many hours a day were they available for you to contact them?
My tutors were available a few hours a day. If I did not have a scheduled tutoring time, I would go into their office and “check in”. I would let them know if I needed help on something, a test coming up, or if I needed their help with scheduling out my day/week. I eventually went on maintenance instead of full-time, where I would have tutoring less often but I would be able to “check in” with my tutors. I would also be able to e-mail, call or text them if I needed support with something. –Morgan
I understand that some professors might not be fully aware of certain learning disabilities. How did you work with professors that were not willing or were hesitant to facilitate the accommodation request?
One suggestion would be to go through the Disability Service Office. Each college is different and it is important professors follow guidelines of the college. It is also critical that students talk to other students who have learning disabilities. –Colleen
Learning disabilities such as dyslexia can be seen as "invisible disability", how do you work with people who think you are "faking" a disability to get "the easy way out"?
There are tons
of people who think because of my academic success that there's no way I could have learning disabilities. This can be a sensitive topic to bring up among friends because it takes a very high level of confidence to say that you learn differently than everyone else does and that although my reading speed/comprehension is much lower than average that does not
mean I have to be stupid. I frequently see a blind student walking around the engineering building at CU Boulder and I ask people I'm talking to, "would it be fair to make him take tests like everyone else who could see?" and that usually puts it into perspective for them. – Jack
About the presenters
received her bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio and is currently enrolled in graduate school at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was diagnosed with a language-based learning disability at the age of four. She plans to teach students with language-based learning disabilities and wants to make a difference in the lives of students who struggle to learn to read.
is a third-year student in environmental engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. He was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder in second grade but did not receive accommodations until sixth grade when he struggled to stay focused in class. He is minoring in business and leadership studies and hopes to use all of his fields of study together to effectively manage environmental resources.
graduated from Muskingum University and will complete her master's degree in special education at Saint Joseph’s University this May. She was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was 6 years old. Her plans are to work at a private school in a general education, special education classroom or a nature center. She believes that students with print disabilities need multiple opportunities to discuss their understanding of concepts and notes.