Students with Learning Disabilities
Learning Disability (LD) Is:
A Learning Disability Is NOT:
- A permanent disorder affecting an individual with average or
above-average intelligence in one or more of the basic psychological
processes. The disorder selectively interferes with integrating,
acquiring, and/or demonstrating verbal and/or nonverbal abilities.
- Frequently associated with some type of processing and/or memory
deficit. It can be manifested in one or more of the following areas:
reading comprehension, spelling, written and/or oral language,
mathematics and problem solving. Less frequent, but no less
troublesome, are problems in organizational and/or study skills,
self-expression and social skills.
- Frequently characterized by a significant discrepancy
between ability and achievement.
- Often inconsistent. It may present problems on Mondays, but not
on Tuesdays. It may cause problems throughout grade school, seem to
disappear during high school, and then resurface again in college. It
may manifest itself in only one specific academic area such as math or
- FRUSTRATING! Persons with learning disabilities often have to
deal not only with functional limitations, but also with the
frustration of having to prove evidence of their “hidden disability”.
Common Characteristics of College
Students With Learning Disabilities
- Primarily the result of auditory, visual or motor impairment;
mental retardation; inadequate learning opportunities; cultural
deprivation; or emotional disorder.
may have one or more of these characteristics.
No student will have all of these problems.
Written Language Skills
- Slow reading rate and/or difficulty in modifying reading rate in
accordance with material difficulty.
- Poor comprehension and retention.
- Difficulty identifying important points and themes.
- Poor mastery of phonics, confusion of similar words, difficulty
integrating new vocabulary.
Oral Language Skills
- Difficulty with sentence structure (e.g., incomplete sentences,
poor use of grammar, missing inflectional endings).
- Frequent spelling errors (e.g., omissions, substitutions,
transposition), especially in specialized and foreign vocabulary.
- Inability to copy correctly from a book or the blackboard.
- Poor and slow penmanship (e.g., poorly-formed letters, incorrect
use of capitalization, trouble with spacing, overly-large handwriting).
- Inability to concentrate on and comprehend oral language.
- Difficulty in orally expressing ideas which he/she seems to
- Written expression is better than oral expression.
- Difficulty speaking grammatically correct English.
- Cannot tell a story in proper sequence.
Organizational and Study Skills
- Incomplete mastery of basic facts (e.g., mathematical tables).
- Confuses operational symbols, especially + and x.
- Copies problems incorrectly from one line to another.
- Difficulty recalling the sequence of operational processes.
- Inability to understand and retain symbolic information and/or
- Difficulty comprehending word problems.
- Reasoning deficits.
- Time management difficulties
- Repeated inability, on a day-to-day basis, to recall what has
- Difficulty following oral and written directions and/or studying.
- Inefficient use of library reference materials.
Some LD adults may have social skills problems due to their
inconsistent perceptual abilities. For the same reason that a person
with visual perceptual problems may have trouble discriminating between
the letters “b” and “d” he/she may be unable to detect the difference
between a joking wink and a disgusted glance. People with auditory
perceptual problems might not notice the difference between sincere and
sarcastic comments, or be able to recognize other subtle changes in
tone of voice. These difficulties in interpreting non verbal messages
may result in lowered self-esteem for some LD adults, and may cause
them to have trouble meeting people, working cooperatively with others,
and making friends.
NOT every college
student with learning disabilities will have the same difficulties nor
experience them to the same degree. Each student possesses average to
above-average intelligence and will be challenged to maximize their
learning potential through compensations for their specific difficulty.
for Helping All Students to Succeed
documented learning disabilities have the same legal entitlements as
adults with physical disabilities. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation
Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap against
persons in programs or activities receiving or benefiting from federal
assistance. Thus, in a post-secondary educational setting. Section 504
mandates “reasonable accommodation” for LD students via such methods as
taped textbooks and alternative testing arrangements, in the same way
that it mandates curb cuts and ramped entrances to classroom buildings
for physically disabled students. The Americans with Disabilities Act,
signed into law in 1990, strengthens these mandates.
- Provide students with a detailed course syllabus. Make it
available before class begins if taped materials are needed.
- Clearly spell out expectations before the course begins (e.g.,
grading, material to be covered, and due dates).
- Start each lecture with an outline of material to be covered that
period. At the conclusion of the class, briefly summarize key points.
- Speak directly to students, and use gestures and natural
expressions to convey further meaning.
- Present new and technical vocabulary on the chalk board or use a
student handout. Terms should be used in context to convey greater
- Give assignments both orally and in written form to avoid
- Announce reading assignments well in advance for students who are
using taped materials. It takes an average of six weeks to get a book
- Allow students to tape lectures.
- Provide study guide or study questions for exams that demonstrate
the format, as well as the content, of the test. Explain what
constitutes a good answer and why.
- If necessary, allow LD students to demonstrate mastery of course
material using alternative methods (e.g., extended time limits for
testing, oral exams, taped exams, individually proctored exams in a
- Permit use of simple calculators, scratch paper, and spellers’
dictionaries during exams.
- Provide adequate opportunities for questions and answers,
including review sessions.
- If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide
for optional student use.
- Encourage students to use campus support services (e.g.,
assistance in ordering taped textbooks, alternative testing
arrangements, counseling services, study skills, writing centers,
academic tutorial assistance).
Suggestions For College Students With Learning Disabilities
At UW-Milwaukee, the Student
Accessibility Center and the Learning Disabilities Program assist
students with learning disabilities by coordinating these services:
- If you know that you have a learning disability and
can substantiate your claim, talk to your instructors before the
- Set realistic goals and priorities for coursework.
- Keep only one calendar with all relevant dates, assignments, and
- Use a tape recorder during lectures. Selectively tape-record key
points using the “pause” switch.
- Listen to the tape as soon after class as possible to refresh
your memory, then reorganize your notes.
- Make notes of any questions you might have so that they can be
answered before the next exam.
- Sit toward the front of the classroom to maximize your eye
contact and to reduce distractions.
- Estimate how long a given class assignment will take, generally
planning on two hours outside of class for every hour in class. Build
in study breaks, as fatigue is a big time waster.
- Study with a classmate and exchange information about class notes
- If you are having trouble, seek help early in the semester.
- Referrals and general information
- Tape recording of academic materials
- Special arrangements and monitoring for exams.
- Communication with professors
- Tutoring services
- Note-taking assistance
- Supportive counseling and guidance