Tuesday, August 20

Educating different types of learners

As more students with learning disabilities are admitted, UCLA finds the resources to help

photo illustration

photo illustration

Lexi Atmore

Grayson Langford felt no reservations including information about his learning disability on his UCLA application.

Now a second-year economics student, he wrote a line or two in the additional comments section about the condition he was diagnosed with at age 6.

“I thought it would be relevant to let them know it is something I had to deal with in high school,” Langford said. “I didn’t receive any special services in high school, but it was a way to add to my application and get a clearer picture of who I am.”

The percentage of first-year students who self-identify with a learning disability, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, has increased, according to the recently released 2010 Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s Freshman Survey, which is administered by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.

The survey, which is based on responses from more than 200,000 first-year students entering four-year colleges in the United States, shows that 5 percent of students reported they have ADHD and 2.9 percent of students reported they have a learning disability.

“We have a lot of ADHD students now on campus and students with psychological disorders ““ things we didn’t have before,” said Linda DeAngelo, assistant director for research at the Higher Education Research Institute. “Campuses are being called upon to educate a whole new class of students.”

At UCLA, the number of students with ADHD is growing consistently, while the number of students with learning disabilities has seen a smaller increase, said Kathy Molini, director of Office for Students with Disabilities at UCLA.

Since 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act has made it possible for students with learning disabilities to be eligible for college.

“A lot of students who wouldn’t have been college eligible before ADA are now college eligible because they have had education through the grade levels and through high school that has been sufficient to make them college ready,” DeAngelo said.

Because the act prohibits colleges from discriminating against students with learning disabilities, Peter Kassel, training director of Counseling and Psychological Services at UCLA, said it benefits students to identify early on that they have a disability, which can be done through their college application.

Although there is no longer a specific section of the UC application for students to declare they have a disability, Molini said many students take advantage of the personal statement and additional comments section to address their disability.

“I think that students should know that whatever they put down, they are protected from discrimination if there is some kind of illness,” Kassel said. “Independent of that, they should get some assessment of their illness, because the earlier-incoming students can identify their needs and get better help from our psychologists.”

As the number of students increases, Molini said the Office for Students with Disabilities has been able to keep up with necessary staffing and resources.

“We feel that the administration is recognizing our need, by providing the resources necessary to make sure students have an opportunity for success,” she said.

Such services for the growing number of students include support groups, extra time on tests and priority enrollment.

“People that do have these disabilities should look into getting services, because if it’s something you don’t keep inside, you may have a better time addressing it and getting services to get through your personal circumstances at UCLA,” Langford said.

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