Alternative testing is one of the most common types of
accommodations on college campuses. Students may be given
extended or untimed examinations or be allowed to take tests in
an alternate format. Students who have documented dyscalculia
may be allowed to use calculators on all exams and assignments.
Keep in mind that the overall goals and standards for a course
cannot be altered to accommodate a student’s learning difference. For instance, lowering the numerical cutoff for a certain
letter grade or providing an exemption from a lab practical
examination would not be an acceptable accommodation for a
difference. Another example of an unworkable accommodation
could be a nursing or pre-medical student requesting exemption
from examining patients. Since this is an integral part of the profession, it would not be reasonable to exempt such requirements
for disabled students.
That being said, there are many substitutions and alterations
that can be implemented that still require the student to complete
the same level of effort as all other students. If in doubt, just ask!
If you have a diagnosed learning difference, let your campus ADA
office or coordinator know as early in the semester as possible.
These professionals will typically give you a form to take to each
faculty member that specifies the requested accommodations.
Each faculty member will keep your learning difference confidential and should check with you at several points throughout the
semester to make sure that accommodations are working.
If you suspect that you might have an undiagnosed learning
difference, then schedule an appointment with a qualified psychologist or psychiatrist as soon as possible. Be sure to ask if they
can test you for specific learning disabilities. Give as much detail
as possible about the difficulties that you are having. Obtain documentation from their offices and take it to your campus ADA office
If you are having academic difficulties, resist the urge to try to
cope with a learning difference on your own. Request assistance
early in the semester, regardless of the perceived difficulty of your
courses, and you may increase your level of achievement.
Carl B. “Burt” Hollandsworth is an assistant professor of
chemistry at Harding University in Searcy, AR.
Signs of Potential Learning Differences
Most people will, from time to time, display one or more of
the following signs of learning differences. If, however, you
exhibit several of these characteristics over a long period
of time, consider the possibility that you have a learning
•;Difficulty in comprehending written or spoken language,
or with your writing or reasoning abilities (often avoiding
reading and writing tasks as a result)
•;Hyperactivity, inattention, and perceptual coordination
•;Weak memory skills
•;Uneven and unpredictable test performance
•;Perceptual impairments, motor difficulties, and behaviors
such as impulsiveness, low tolerance for frustration, and
problems handling day-to-day social interactions and
•;Poor spelling skills (for instance, frequently spelling the
same word differently in a single piece of writing)
Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore, MD: www.kennedykrieger.org/
LDOnline: LD Basics: Common Signs of Learning Disabilities,