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A Guide for College Kids with Learning Differences

written by: •edited by: Amanda Grove•updated: 4/14/2012

Having a learning difference or disability is not a direct road to failing at college. Colleges are required to provide accommodations and services to college kids with learning differences. Students with learning disabilities should be diagnosed early and utilize all services available.

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    What are Learning Differences?

    Learning differences or learning disabilities encompasses a host of conditions that students may have which impede them from learning under normal classroom settings. Colleges kids with learning differences often have problems in –

    - mental and cognitive processing

    - physical handicaps such as blindness

    - auditory or visual processing disorders

    - understanding numerical concepts (dyscalculia) or verbal/written (dyslexia)

    - social skills processing

    The American Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) protects all children and adults with learning disabilities. This means that college kids with learning differences or disabilities have the right to an opportunity at education like all other students. These laws also require schools to provide the necessary accommodations for students to learn and succeed in their learning environments.

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    Getting a Diagnosis

    Tutoring Getting a diagnosis for a learning disability can be a tricky and ongoing process for students. Many disabled students often go misdiagnosed or with no diagnosis at all throughout their school years. For many disabilities, especially the physical and mental/cognitive ones, diagnosis often requires a series of physical and psychological examinations by medical doctors, behavioral/speech/occupational therapists and counselors. This process can be costly and requires that parents and loved ones of students be persistent in pursuing the right team of professionals to make the diagnosis.

    Many students struggle through their entire academic life without receiving the extra help that they are entitled. This common course of action by students and their families is mainly due to embarrassment, denial, lack of resources and knowledge about disabilities. Parents of disabled college kids with learning differences or disabilities should seek help as early as possible. Taking action early can avoid the inevitable feelings of shame, frustration and discouragement experienced by disabled students trying to “go it alone.” There are a variety of resources and places to find help for a disabled student.

    Once a correct diagnosis is made, appropriate paperwork from these doctors is required upon entering college. In addition to applying through the usual college admissions program, disabled students will also register at the same time with the campus disabled students office to obtain the necessary help in completing their admissions and course advisement.

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    Services for Learning Disabled Students in College

    By Federal law, namely ADA and IDEA, colleges are required to provide adequate academic accommodations in classrooms and also additional services that can assist college kids with learning differences. Campus services usually come in the form of a disability office or center that houses space for tutoring, computers and other assisted learning technologies for students to utilize.

    On-campus learning disability centers will have staff persons qualified in counseling and behavioral disorders. Many centers utilize full- or part-time tutors or peer tutors to help disabled students with daily lectures and test preparation. Also, centers have extensive libraries of textbooks used in classes, supplemental texts and sets of notes taken by other students who are hired as note-takers to provide updated class materials.

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    Tips for Learning Disabled Students

    College kids with learning differences must first alert their professors and show proper documentation from the campus disability office. Once in class, students should sit towards the front of the classroom so that they are closer in proximity to the professor and not involved in many distractions with other students. Learning disabled students should make every attempt to listen to class lectures and take notes while in class.

    After classes each day, students should visit campus services to to review lecture notes with tutors. This daily reinforcement is essential to the success of disabled students in college courses. Each semester, disabled students should include daily visits to their academic tutors review notes, complete assignments and prepare for tests; weekly visits with counselors on campus to discuss and resolve any problems or issues they may be having with school and periodic visits with academic advisors to review overall progress in their programs.

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    Article: "Students With Learning Disabilities Get Help With College” (2009)

    Learning Disability Resources Website -

    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) –

    Photo by Bonnie Harris. Courtesy by WikiMedia Commons -