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Home > Research Articles > Learning disabilities an issue in college

The Auburn Plainsman Online

Sunday, March 02, 2003

By Anna Pitts - Staff Writer

February 27, 2003

For some students high school was a means of surviving when it came to making good grades, but when they moved on to a university, they realized their studying survival skills no longer worked.

Unknown to college students, it may not be studying strategies that are the problem. Their troubles may be the result of a learning disability.

The definition of a learning disability is a significant discrepancy in reading, reading comprehension, written language, math, math calculation and information processing, when compared to overall cognitive abilities. This is measured by intelligence tests.

Dr. Kelly Haynes, director of the Program for Students with Disabilities at Auburn, said if a student has a relative weakness in a particular area, it does not necessarily mean the student has a discrepancy or learning disability.

The discrepancy cannot be because of any other disability such as a hearing problem, low intelligence, visual impairment or socioeconomic level.

For example, if a student has difficulty typing or cannot tell when someone is off key, these are just weaknesses.

Professional diagnoses and a series of tests must be run on students to determine if they have learning disabilities.

PSD has a list of required tests that must be done for a student to receive its services.

The requirements include a comprehensive evaluation report from a psychologist, psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, school psychologist, learning disability specialist or diagnostician. Along with the evaluation there must be a series of tests run. PSD has a handout that lists these requirements.

PSD does not do testing but Psychological Services on campus, clinical psychologists, psychological associates and the Auburn/Opelika Psychology Center can perform tests.

The cost is between $300 and $800.

After the student is diagnosed, the psychologist may make recommendations for the individual student's test results.

"PSD looks at the problem the student has and finds out how they can accommodate the student the best, and those are the ones that are put into practice," said Haynes.

Such accommodations might be necessary if a student has a processing disorder. This means they process information at a slower pace than others.

PSD can accommodate extended time for tests. If students have spelling problems, they are allowed to take the exam on a computer with spell check.

"This does not give the student an advantage over the other students or make it easier, it just makes the playing field more level," Haynes said.

Haynes said most students with an undiagnosed learning disability who struggled in high school do not find out they have a problem until they get to college. She described it as "hitting a wall."

Students get overlooked in high school because they make it through with mediocre grades.

Other reasons are that they may have gone to small public schools or private schools. Both of which do not have enough professionals to help students.

Private schools don't have hired employees, nor are they obligated to point out the problem or help the student.

Karen Kincey, a sixth grade teacher at Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn, said she has to watch her students' behavior, as well as look at their grades and study habits to see if they have a problem.

She said she thinks students with learning disabilities would benefit better at public schools because of the professional help.

Charolette Kelly, a counselor and former learning disability teacher in Chilton County, said teachers are usually the ones who see a problem or weakness.

She said sometimes parents will initiate the testing, but most of the time parents are in denial about their children's problems.

Haynes said dyslexia is a learning disability. He defined it as terminology, which means that the person has a reading disorder.

Many students with learning disabilities who have reading and spelling problems reverse letters or write b for d. This is because of a lack of knowledge of phonics, not faulty vision.

Haynes said students in PSD who begin there as freshmen have a higher retention rate than the rest of the University. This is achieved because students enrolled in PSD are able to get accommodations and get out, he said.

PSD is very discrete with students, their disabilities and their accommodations.

Statistics from PSD show that every college at Auburn has students who are enrolled in its program. Liberal Arts had the highest number of students in PSD because it is the most populated.

A summary from fall 2002 showed that the highest disability of Auburn students is Attention Deficit Disorder and learning disabilities.

"There is a common misperception of students with learning disabilities of being slow, but they aren't because they got into college," Haynes said. "I promise to be as helpful as I can be. School is hard and takes a lot of work, if there is no progress then there must be a reason."