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January 2011



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By Carol Wren and Laura Segal
Article contributed by Dr. Joan Azarva

Laura – “I have a learning disability…”Looking back on my high school years, I can see that my behavior and characteristics were a direct result of a still undiagnosed specific learning disability. My family and friends occasionally questioned why I valued my school work so highly that doing homework always took priority over relaxing and enjoying a balanced social life. I claimed that I wanted to suck out each possible droplet of knowledge because learning was fulfilling unto itself; but I became a serious student very early because, due to my unidentified impairment, learning was demanding, requiring intense concentration and hard work on my part.

Dr. Wren – As Laura’s story illustrates, many times students do not recognize that they have learning disabilities. They may have been called lazy, or been afraid that they were just “dumb.” Or they may have lived with considerable frustration and anxiety through grade school and high school, not understanding why some things were so very difficult, when others were so easy.

When I went to my professors for help because I felt I couldn’t write a paper, they just told me to relax and not to worry because I had good ideas judging from class discussions in which I participated. They had faith in me and urged me to ‘just write down’ my ideas. To me, however, this was an insurmountable task. Feeling threatened and lacking weapons for battle, I developed a defeatist attitude and my goal became simply turning in something, anything, on the due date.

Students with learning disabilities usually have areas of difficulty that are in marked contrast to other areas where they excel. Some may learn well through lectures, but have extreme difficulty reading. Others may express themselves very well orally, but spell or write very poorly. Each person possesses a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. The deficits all have a negative impact on learning and can interfere in a variety of ways.

A person in a wheel chair needs special access to the elevators in university buildings instead of using stairs or escalators. Similarly, an LD student may need special access to information, e.g., by tape recording a lecture instead of taking notes. In either case different means are necessary, but the same goal is reached: obtaining an education.”

Click here for entire article on Common Problems of Learning Disabled College Students.

Dr. Carol T. Wren, Associate Professor Emeritus in the Program for Literacy, and Specialized Instruction School of Education, DePaul University

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