Learning Disabilities in the Community College and the Role of Disability Services Departments

Article excerpt

Abstract: The community college offers educational opportunities to a diverse population of students. Many of the students attending the community college are considered non-traditional, and have numerous factors not faced by traditional-age students that can affect retention in this population.

Learning disabled (LD) students attend the community college at a higher rate than other higher education institutions (Barnett, 1996; Bigaj, 1995; & Henderson, 1992). The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) reported that LDs now constitute the largest single category of disability served by disability service offices in the community colleges (Barnett, 1992). Accommodations are set up by the Disability Support Services Departments, and it is the Disability Services offered by the college that can be the deciding factor for the student regarding the choice of institution (Cocchi, 1997).

A trend for the future involves many students who attend the community college self-identifying as being learning disabled and requesting accommodation. Faculty, staff, and administrators in the community college will need to be very familiar with legislation that impacts the rights and availability of services for LD students.

Key Words: Students, Learning Disabilities, Community College, Disability Support Services Departments

The community college offers educational opportunities to a diverse population of students. Many of the students attending the community college are considered non-traditional, and have numerous factors not faced by traditional-age students that can affect retention in this population. Learning disabled (LD) students attend the community college at a higher rate than other higher education institutions (Barnett, 1996; Bigaj, 1995; & Henderson, 1992). The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) reported that LDs now constitute the largest single category of disability served by disability service offices in the community colleges (Barnett, 1992).

A trend for the future involves many students who attend the community college self-identifying as being learning disabled and requesting accommodation. Faculty, staff, and administrators in the community college will need to be very familiar with legislation that impacts the rights and availability of services for LD students. This paper will define learning disability and will discuss the role of disability support services departments in the community college setting.

The Real World of Learning Disability

Scenario of an Adult Student with a Learning Disability

After some earlier attempts, Martha returned to college in her mid-thirties and earned a bachelor's degree at a state university. Although not unusual for an adult student, her success came after she had overcome a number of barriers. When she was nine, she was diagnosed as having a significant reading disability and she was told by a teacher that she was just "lazy. " She describes a number of bad experiences with teachers and educators throughout grade school, high school, and her earlier college attempts. Martha has a very low comprehension when she reads. Primarily and auditory learner, she learns well and has high comprehension when she listens to taperecorded books and materials, a reader, and class presentations. She demonstrates her learning well in papers that she writes using a computer. Her desire to earn a college degree and her persistence were supported by further testing and services provided by a community college. Understanding faculty in both the community college and the state university encouraged this intelligent and determined woman to continue to work toward her educational and career goals (Gadbow & DuBois, 1998, p. 3).

A Famous American with Learning Difficulty

Despite his phenomenal gifts, Albert Einstein had great difficulties with academic learning. He said of himself, "writing is difficult, and I communicate this way [by speaking] very badly. …