Facing, and Accepting, the Disability Lion

Many Advisors in college disability resource centers (DRC) we have visited have shared that students with learning disabilities will often not seek services when first entering college because they want to see how they do without any type of support.

Understandable.  You turn 18.  You graduate from high school.  You’ve had an IEP or 504 for years with accommodations to help you get through assignments and tests.  For the past 8 months you have been able to advocate for yourself. You’ve been accepted to your college of choice, you have been oriented to the DRC there.  You feel you are ready to face the lion all by yourself, without any kind of support.

But by the end of your first college semester you find yourself wondering if you can really do this.  Although you are working very hard – staying up late at night, participating in study groups, having some of your new friends help you out – you can’t meet deadlines, your anxiety at test time takes over, and you end up with either very low or failing grades.  You realize you need help.

A blog post in Diverse Issues in Education describes this exact situation and what colleges are doing to ramp up services for students with learning disabilities.

Endowed with a newfound freshman’s hunger for independence, Alix Generous thought she could conquer college without seeking help for the learning disabilities she had dealt with since she was 11.

She was wrong.

In her first year at the College of Charleston, Generous decided against using the school’s assistance programs for students with dyslexia and other disorders, even though she had relied on such help throughout her childhood.

“I was like, ‘Now I’m 18 and can do what I want.’ I definitely had that attitude. But a lot of it also was ignorance,” said Generous, who grew up in Maryland.

“It totally screwed me up,” she said. “In the easiest classes, like Intro to Theater, I got a C.”

Generous finally started accepting extra help, and her grades improved. She later transferred to the University of Vermont, where she is now a junior. She gives talks about her experiences to audiences across the country.

But tens of thousands of other college students keep their learning disabilities a secret.

Now some colleges and universities are focusing more attention on getting reluctant learning-disabled students to disclose their conditions before they run into severe problems in the classroom — and bring down those schools’ increasingly important graduation rates.

Just a quarter of students who received help for their disabilities in high school acknowledge in college that they need the same assistance, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

And while 94 percent of high school students with learning disabilities get some kind of help, just 17 percent of learning-disabled college students do.

Read more here.

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