Over the past three decades, we have learned a lot about learning disabilities. They don’t affect only individuals that have them but also us collectively. Besides, they are quite common in the demographic of US college students.
The most common learning disabilities are dyslexia, ADHD, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. According to the latest statistics, they affect 15%, 9.4%, 5%, and 4% of college undergraduates in the US.
Since they are prevalent in the US college population, it is vital to raise awareness and help these students achieve their academic goals. Below you can learn more about these disabilities and discover some of the valuable resources students can use to pursue education opportunities at US universities.
Learning disabilities & student impacts
Studying is a very delicate process that consists of several phases. One thing that makes learning disorders unique is that they can affect the education process at different stages. Each of these states comes with specific challenges and causes various symptoms.
Auditory Processing Disorder
APD is one of the most common learning disabilities. People who experience it have specific problems with connections in the central nervous system. Due to these problems, they have difficulties processing auditory information. It translates into challenges associated with understanding verbal directions and comprehending lectures.
Students with dyslexia experience the following:
- Difficulty reading
- Problems with recalling words
- Problems with using the right words
Their academic achievement is impaired since they can’t use the same studying materials the other students do.
Undergraduates with dysgraphia find it extremely hard to express their thoughts and ideas through writing. They also can’t correctly spell and write.
Students can showcase poor performance on written exams and essays at college even though they are familiar with the subject and thoroughly understand it.
Dyscalculia is characterized by difficulties understanding math-related ideas and using numbers.
For these students, it is nearly impossible to keep up with math classes. They can also experience problems understanding graphical and numeric information, often found in learning materials.
Language Processing Disorder
Students with LPD can’t process or understand written and spoken language.
Even though they can have great ideas, such people can’t share them or participate in discussions.
Nonverbal Learning Disorder
NLD causes people to be unable to understand social cues or successfully engage in spatial and physical learning experiences.
With this impairment, students cannot follow the teacher’s demonstrations which can be challenging in physics and chemistry labs where it is often required to replicate experiments and understand them.
Attention Deficit Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
Students with ADD or ADHD have problems focusing on matters at hand. Their attention is all over the place. Some may even exhibit impulsive behavior.
At university, these people struggle with meeting deadlines, and they often procrastinate until it’s too late to do anything with an assignment or exam.
People with dyspraxia have problems with coordination which can come with a lack of social skills.
These students can fall behind in classes because they can't take notes as fast as others might do. They can also experience challenges when they want to participate in classroom discussions.
Executive Function Disorder or Difficulties
Executive Function Disorder is similar to ADD and ADHD when it comes to symptoms. However, it can be characterized by different symptoms:
- Inability to work in teams
- Difficulty completing tasks on time
These students can hit a wall when they need to contribute as team players. But, unfortunately, they also often find themselves paying too much attention to irrelevant details.
As the name implies, memory deficit is a disorder that makes it hard for people to remember information. It can appear as many problems ranging from accessing to organizing information.
These students can't recall the information even if they spend hours learning. They also can’t remember what’s in the notes they took during the classes. As a result, their academic performance suffers, and their grades don’t reflect their effort.
Visual-Perceptual or Motor-Deficit
Visual-perceptual or motor-deficit is also one of the learning disabilities. They can completely understand everything when teachers express it verbally but not so much through a copy.
These students, for instance, may be unable to take notes during classes, mainly if professors write them on the blackboard. In addition, diagrams and maps are extremely hard for them to copy, making certain lectures insurmountable.
How to prepare for college with a learning disability
Given that a college student with learning disabilities has unique needs, it's essential to carefully address the college preparation phase. Their academic challenges and personality can make it hard to prepare for college. For instance, they might need access to custom-tailored studying materials, support from their colleagues, or professional guidance and help from the faculty staff.
However, some things can help such students choose the best college and prepare for this big transition.
Assess the Support Services
Learning disabilities and college can work together. Undergraduates should visit the campus during the college prep phase and check if there are any support services available to them. The services that might be particularly useful to a student with learning disabilities are:
- Writing centers
- Tutoring services
- Specific services for students with disabilities
Look for Programs Designed for Students with Learning Disorders
Some college programs are exclusively made for students with such challenges. It makes college prep significantly easier for this student group. Some of the programs are:
- Landmark College in Massachusetts
- University of Arizona’s Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center
- University of California, Berkeley’s Disabled Students' Program
Get the Best SAT or ACT Scores Possible
FairTest colleges don’t require SAT or ACT scores from applicants. However, students who want to enroll in programs outside of the FairTest network can get better scores by taking accommodated versions of SAT or ACT.
Scholarships & financial aid for students with learning disabilities
There are many scholarships and financial aid options for college undergraduates with learning disabilities. Navigating this landscape and finding the best ones can be tricky, though. Here are the most noteworthy scholarships and financial aid programs for students with such disorders.
- RISE Scholarship Foundation offers a scholarship to high school seniors with a learning disorder. The application deadline is January every year. Keep in mind that students with ADD or ADHD are not eligible for this scholarship.
- Gemm Scholarship is for students who have dyslexia in the form of auditory processing disorder. You can apply two times a year.
- Anne Ford Scholarship is available to students who have learning disorders, including ADD and ADHD. The scholarship is for undergraduates who aim to obtain a bachelor's degree from a four-year program.
- Karina Eide Memorial College Scholarship is created for students with dyslexia. Those have to be enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college program to be eligible for it.
- Marion Huber Learning Through Listening Award is available to high school seniors who are members of Learning Ally. To be eligible, a student has to have a learning disorder that impairs their ability to read.
- Moss Endowment Scholarship is for those who plan to obtain a degree in visual arts. To be eligible, students need to have language or speech-related learning disorders.
- Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship. Graduate ADHD students and those who are enrolled in a two or four-year program are eligible.
- Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship is available to high school seniors. Still, it is only available to students with a learning disability who plan to enroll in a vocational school or 2-year community college program.
- Joseph James Morelli Scholarship fund is catering to the needs of students who want to pursue degrees in a STEM field. Those with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia are eligible.
- Smart Kids with Learning Disorders awards the Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award to accomplished and successful students with learning disorders and ADHD.
The best learning disability support & campus resources
A college student with learning disabilities often needs assistance outside the classroom as well. It’s also something their families can find quite helpful. There are many disability support and campus resources. Here are the 15 most noteworthy ones:
- Autistic Self Advocacy Network - the network provides a variety of services designed to support the population with learning disabilities;
- DO-IT - this is an organization with the University of Washington. It promotes inclusion and offers many valuable resources to students with learning disabilities;
- Association on Higher Education and Disability - a great website that offers plenty of resources and actionable advice;
- Think College - this is a national organization focused on informing learners about all sorts of disabilities about relevant college programs;
- Conducting a College Search: Questions to Ask - this is an excellent resource for students who want to find a college-level program that suits their needs and personality;
- ADA National Network - this organization offers support to students who are victims of discrimination;
- ADDitude - living with ADD or ADHD can be challenging, let alone obtaining a college degree; ADDitude is a magazine that offers practice advice on managing ADD and ADHD symptoms;
- Learning Disabilities Association of America - the site offers several articles tailored to support adults with studying differences;
- LDOnline - this website is a go-to resource for many people with learning disorders. It even has a section devoted to helping undergraduates thrive in academic environments;
- Understood - this is an excellent resource for students with learning disorders and their families. The website offers many helpful articles, guides, and advice.
- Friends of Quinn - with this National Center for Learning Disabilities program, students with learning disorders can network with their peers and find support;
- LD Student Blog - this blog features podcasts and articles delivered by learners with academic disorders. It’s an excellent resource for freshmen;
- Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities - the website offers several strategies students with learning differences can use to excel at college;
- National Center for Learning Disabilities - a great place to get familiar with learning disorder facts, stats, and laws;
State-specific Resources - a student with learning disabilities and their families should look for local resources such as Texas Project FIRST to identify state-specific support systems.