BY CARL B. “BURT” HOLLANDSWORTH
Have you ever thought that you could have done much better in general chemistry… if only you didn’t have to take exams with all of those other people in the room? Or that you just couldn’t concentrate with the noises that the
other students were making?
Or maybe you have always been a good student but have
noticed that you have a relative weakness in writing or reading
skills. Maybe you tend to earn A’s in all of your math and science classes but struggle to pass in English and other courses
with intensive writing requirements.
Even if one of these scenarios sounds familiar, you might
still not imagine that you could have a learning difference. A
smart, competent student can go a long way before a learning
difference is suspected. In fact, it’s not unusual for students to
receive this diagnosis only when they reach college, when the
more demanding level of work can expose the problem.
Do you have a learning difference that is significantly impeding your academic success? Even if you do, you may not be aware
of how to categorize your difference or have it officially diagnosed. The good news is that test-taking issues and problems
caused by learning differences are easily accommodated if they
are diagnosed early in a student’s undergraduate career and
brought to the instructor’s attention early on in a course. This
article will outline the most common types of learning differences and how they can be mitigated in the college environment.
What the ADA says
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) mandates that
all institutions of higher learning receiving federal funding must
provide reasonable accommodations for students with learning
differences and other types of disabilities. Your college or university
likely has an office, or at least a coordinator, who is responsible for
ensuring that the university strictly adheres to the guidelines of
this law. Faculty members and ADA coordinators are eager to work
with students who provide proper documentation of a learning difference, and to make accommodations that level the playing field
for all students.
Types of learning differences
Learning differences are generally classified as lifelong conditions
of neurological origin. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) is the disability that most commonly comes to mind. It is a
brain disorder caused by imbalances in levels of neurotransmitters.
It cannot be cured, but can be treated.
Of course, there are many types of physical problems that
could impede your ability to learn and study but, in terms of the
ADA, are not considered learning disabilities. Accommodations
would certainly be provided for students with temporary physical
disabilities such as a broken arm or life-long sensory disabilities,
such as blindness. However, these are not considered learning