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Learning Disabilities (LD)

  • Common Characteristics
  • Possible Accommodations
    A Learning Disability Is:
  • a disorder which affects the manner in which individuals with normal or above average intelligence absorb, retain and express information. It is commonly recognized as a significant deficit in one or more of the following areas: oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skills, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation or problem solving. Individuals with learning disabilities may also have difficulty with sustained attention, time management or social skills.
  • presumably due to central nervous system dysfunction.
  • cross-cultural. It occurs regardless of racial or ethnic origin, gender, or socio-economic status.
  • often inconsistent. It may persist throughout life, but the problems manifested may change depending upon the learning demands and the setting. It may manifest itself in only one academic area such as math or foreign language or impact an individual's performance across a variety of subject areas and disciplines.
  • FRUSTRATING. Because it is not visible, teachers, parents, and peers often do not understand the challenges faced by individuals with an LD.

    A Learning Disability Is Not:

  • a form of mental retardation or emotional disorder.
  • primarily due to other disabilities, environmental or cultural influences.
  • a predictor of academic failure.

  • Common Characteristics
    Many college students with learning disabilities are intelligent, talented and capable. Typically, they have developed a variety of strategies for compensating for their LD. However, the degree of severity of the disability varies from individual to individual. Students who come from divergent cultural and language backgrounds may exhibit many of the oral and written language behaviors cited below but are not necessarily learning disabled by virtue of this difference alone.

      B. Written Language Skills
    • Difficulty planning a topic and organizing thoughts on paper.
    • Difficulty with sentence structure.
    • Frequent spelling errors.
    • Difficulty effectively proofreading written work and making revisions.
    • Compositions are often limited in length.
    • Slow written production.
    • Poor penmanship.
    • Inability to copy correctly from a book or the blackboard.
      C. Oral Language Skills
    • Inability to concentrate on and to comprehend spoken language when presented rapidly.
    • Difficulty in expressing concepts orally that they seem to understand.
    • Difficulty speaking grammatically correct English.
    • Difficulty following or having a conversation about an unfamiliar idea.
    • Trouble telling a story in the proper sequence.
    • Difficulty following oral or written directions.
      D. Mathematical Skills
    • Incomplete mastery of basic facts.
    • Reverses numbers.
    • Confuses operational symbols.
    • Copies problems incorrectly from one line to another.
    • Difficulty recalling the sequence of operational concepts.
    • Difficulty comprehending word problems.
    • Difficulty understanding key concepts and applications to aid problem solving.
      E. Auditory Processing Deficit
    • Difficulty comprehending oral information presented in a lecture format
    • Trouble hearing or perceiving certain sounds.
    • Difficulty associating sounds with symbols.
    • Inability to recognize sound patterns.
    • Difficulty distinguishing between similar sounds (auditory discrimination).
    • Trouble hearing sounds over background noise (auditory figure-ground).
    • Difficulty hearing sounds or words in correct order (auditory sequencing).
      F. Visual Processing Deficit
    • Rotate, invert, and transpose letters and numerals.
    • Words may appear misspaced.
    • Omits word endings.
    • Difficulty seeing the difference between similar words (i.e., sat, mat), letters (i.e., m, n), and numbers (i.e., 6,9) (visual discrimination).
    • Trouble seeing individual image within a broader context, such as locating problem #3 on a worksheet (visual figure-ground).
    • Difficulty seeing letters or numbers in a correct order, such as was, saw (visual sequencing).
      G. Organizational and Study Skills
    • Difficulty with organization skills.
    • Time management difficulties.
    • Slow to start and complete tasks.
    • Repeated inability, on a day-to-day basis, to recall what has been taught.
    • Lack of overall organization in taking notes.
    • Difficulty interpreting charts and graphs.
    • Inefficient use of library and reference materials.
    • Difficulty preparing for and taking tests.
      H. Attention and Concentration
    • Trouble focusing and sustaining attention on academic tasks.
    • Fluctuating attention span during lectures.
    • Easily distracted by outside stimuli.
    • Hyperactivity and excessive movements.
      I. Social Skills
    • Some adults with learning disabilities have social skills problems due to their inconsistent perceptual abilities. These individuals may be unable to detect the difference between sincere and sarcastic comments or may be unable to recognize other subtle changes in tone of voice for the same reason that a person with a visual perceptual problem may have trouble discriminating between the letters "b" and "d". Difficulties in interpreting nonverbal messages may result in lowered self-esteem and may cause some adults with learning disabilities to have trouble meeting people or working cooperatively with others.

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    Possible Accommodations
    Faculty play a critical role in helping students who may have learning disabilities by referring them to a trained specialist. Faculty are by no means expected to lower standards, alter the nature of the course, change objectives, or provide remediation. However, some teaching practices that are very helpful to all students can make all the difference to a student with a learning disability, who may actually request that the professor:

    1. Start each lecture with an outline of material to be covered that period. At the conclusion of the class, briefly summarize key points.

    2. Present new or technical vocabulary on the blackboard or in a printed handout.

    3. Give assignments in both oral and written form.

    4. Announce reading assignments well in advance.

    5. If possible, select a textbook with an accompanying study guide.

    6. Provide adequate opportunities for questions and review sessions.

    7. Provide, in advance, study questions for exams that illustrate the format as well as the content of the test. Explain what constitutes a good answer and why.

    8. Allow students to tape record lectures.

    9. Provide alternative testing arrangements when necessary.

    10. Permit use of pocket spellers, scratch paper, and dictionaries during exams.

    11. Review note-taking for accuracy of content on an individual basis.

    12. Provide extended time to complete tests and assignments.

    13. Allow access to a computer for essays (in SNAP office).

    14. Avoid calling on student unless he/she is ready to respond.

    15. Increase use of visual materials.

    16. Use shorter, more frequent testing rather than longer, cumulative testing.

    The CDS staff is available to support faculty in implementing accommodations.

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  • Contact CDS Updated 03/11/02