Are there college scholarships available for students with learning disabilities?

Question:

Are there college scholarships available for students with learning disabilities?

Answer:

Here are some sources we have found that may help you find financial aid for college. This link is to information prepared by LDA’s Adult Topics Committee in the article Financial Aid for College Students with Learning Disabilities.

Scholarships that are available for students with learning disabilities include (click on the link for more information):

The Anne Ford Scholarship. A $10,000 award given to a high school senior with an identified learning disability (LD) who is pursuing an undergraduate degree.

Marion Huber Learning Through Listening (LTL) Awards. Learning Ally will present three $6,000 scholarships and two special honor $2,000 scholarships to high school seniors with learning disabilities.

Microsoft Scholarships for Students with Disabilities. Students with disabilities interested in obtaining an undergraduate degree in computer science or related technical disciplines are requested to apply for the Microsoft scholarship program.

RiSE Scholarship Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit resource and scholarship opportunity for high school students who learn differently.

Arkansas Adult Learning Resource Center (AALRC) also offers scholarship dedicated to students with disabilities in the first section of their website.

Please check with your State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. An individual with a learning disability who is seeking an education leading toward employment may find support there. This support varies considerably depending on the state, but they may provide books and tuition equal to tuition at a public state university. More information can be found in the LDA article Rehabilitation Services Administration.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to determine eligibility for federal grants and loans. FAFSA also provides federal aid for work-study funds. Eligibility for most federal student aid depends on a variety of factors, including Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the student’s year in college, enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the college selected. See the website for more information

Check back on the LDA website under Adult/Post Secondary for more scholarship opportunities that might arise in the future.

Julia Frost | Director, Jones Learning Center | University of the Ozarks | Clarksville, Arkansas

Julia Frost has been the director of the Jones Learning Center at the University of the Ozarks since July 1994. The Center is a comprehensive support program for students with learning disabilities, AD/HD, and ASD. From 1986 through 1991 she was the Center’s director of assessment. She is a nationally certified school psychologist and worked eight years as a school psychologist in public schools. Julia is the chair of the Adult Topics Committee for LDA. She has three adult children, two of whom have helped her to experience more closely the challenges of living with disabilities.

We are considering homeschooling our child. Can you help guide us?

B. J. Wiemer, Ph.D.
B. J. Wiemer, Ph.D.

Question:

We are considering homeschooling our child. Can you help guide us?

Answer:

Homeschooling your child can be a very rewarding and enriching experience at any ageit can also be a very challenging task without adequate information and preparation. To begin with, consider your response to several key questions, including*:

    • Can we do this?
    • Can we afford to homeschool?
    • What about relationships?
    • What resources are available?
    • Would homeschooling be good for our child?
    • Do we really want to take full responsibility for our child’s academic learning?
    • Are school district personnel available to us to provide assistance in shaping a program of home study? If so, how often can we speak? Can we meet in person on a regular basis?
    • What services and supports are available to us given our decision to provide home instruction? Is the IEP still a valid document? Will meetings with the school-based child study team or committee on special education still take place?
    • Can instructional support (e.g., resource room) and related services (e.g., speech-language therapy) be provided to our child at home?
    • Can our child visit the school building for certain classes (e.g., advanced placement science, studio art) but not others? How about participation in sports, chorus, clubs and after-school activities?
    • How will our child’s progress be officially monitored and reported? Will our child have to take mid-term and final exams? (in school? at home?) Standardized assessments? And will these be given with appropriate accommodations?
    • How will our child’s grade point average (GPA) be calculated and recorded on the official school transcript?
    • Will the decision to home school have an impact on our child’s college application process or work application status?

If, after pondering these questions, you are still interested in homeschooling, the next step is to contact specialists and find an educational consultant to guide you through the process of selecting curriculum and instructional strategies best suited for your child’s specific needs. Join networks to learn about your state’s requirements and more by visiting homeschooling websites, such as:

Seek out reading materials and training opportunities through websites, homeschooler newsletters, curriculum fairs, and organizational conferences such as the Learning Disabilities Association and homeschooling networks. Publishing companies, along with local schools and universities, may also provide “professional development” in specific materials and teaching methods. Consider the following books for more excellent advice on preparing for and supporting the education of your child at home:

  • Field, C. M. (2005). A practical guide: Homeschooling the challenging child. Nashville: B & H Publishing Group.
  • Hensley, S. C. (2009). Home schooling children with special needs (3rd ed.). Enumclaw, WA : Pleasant Word.
  • Kuhl, K. (2009). Homeschooling your struggling learner. Herndon, VA: Learn Differently.

With careful consideration and proper planning, the homeschooling experience can be a positive one for the entire family, ensuring that your child receives the best instruction from the ones who care most for her educationyou!

* Adapted from ncld.org.

B. J. Wiemer, Ph.D. | Director of Special Services, Kirk Day School | St. Louis, MO

Dr. Wiemer is a special educator, national teacher trainer, and educational consultant. She has spent 38 years working in public and private settings with students with special needs, most notably as a specialist in specific learning disabilities, children with behavioral/emotional needs, and the at-risk reader. She especially enjoys working with families. She trains and consults with teachers and administrators across the country to address the needs of the at-risk learner. Dr. Wiemer has served LDA in many roles and currently serves on LDA’s national Executive Committee. She holds a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, an M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of Missouri, and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Saint Louis University.

Where can I go for low cost or free evaluation services?

Nancie Payne, Ph.D.
Nancie Payne, Ph.D.

Question:

I am an adult with learning disabilities. Where can I go for low cost or free evaluation services?

Answer:

Thank you for contacting the Learning Disabilities Association of America with your question.

Here is a link to an information page about individuals who have LD and need diagnosis, but are searching for low cost evaluation services. There is a section on TANF recipients which includes other state aid opportunities.

Another option is to see if you qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation Services. If you are considering training or education toward a career or are looking for a job and are having difficulty due to a disability, your state’s department of vocational rehabilitation services may support you. The information sheet also speaks to accessing that service.

Finally, if there is an LDA state affiliate or contact in your state, they frequently have resources and information for their state and local areas. Click here to find LDA contacts throughout the United States.

Nancie Payne, Ph.D. | President/CEO | Payne & Associates, Inc.

Dr. Payne was the President/CEO of Payne & Associates, Inc. She provided education, training and employment services and support to adolescents and adults who have cognitive, non-apparent disabilities. She, also, provided professional development and consultation to businesses and organizations. Dr. Payne served as President of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, 2014-15, her term cut short by her untimely passing..

What are the best classroom and tutoring environments for a child with dyslexia?

Question:

What is the best type of classroom for a student who is dyslexic? What tutoring programs work best with children who are dyslexic?

Answer:

Students with dyslexia should be placed in a classroom that is structured for multisensory, small group instruction. Most classrooms engage students through sight and/or sound. Information is presented in written and/or spoken form. Students in turn are asked to practice and share what they have learned using these two senses. Quite often students with learning difficulties are slow to process information using one sense. A multisensory instructional approach allows students to process information using a variety of senses: visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic; often times simultaneously. This will help the child’s brain to develop memories to hang on to as the student learns and applies concepts. Dyslexic students need repetition and differentiation. Therefore, off-grade level instructional and practice materials should be available. Opportunities to practice what has been taught should be plentiful. Students should be given many opportunities to engage in word work, writing, reading, and listening to reading.

Dyslexic students should also be tutored using a multisensory language approach. In a classroom, students participate in a variety of instructional settings; whole group, small group based on ability, small group based on academic strength or weakness. The tutoring situation should be done one on one or in a small group setting of a maximum of 2-4 other students. Tutoring for dyslexic students often continues as long as 2-3 years. Foundational reading areas should be the focus of instruction: phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary with a focus on word parts. Repeated practice is necessary for mastery. It doesn’t matter which program is used as long as the facilitator is certified to teach using that program.

Nancy F. English, M.Ed.

Nancy F. English, M.Ed.

Nancy is an Instructional Coach for the Vestavia Hills City School System (Alabama). She is a National Board Certified Teacher and has a special certificate to teach students with dyslexia and students struggling with reading difficulties.

Is it possible my child has a learning disability?

Jo Ann D. LoRusso, Ph.D.
Jo Ann D. LoRusso, Ph.D.

Question:

My son is five years old and currently in preschool. He should be starting kindergarten in the fall. We have been working with him very hard on the alphabet and his numbers, but it does not seem like he retains much. Is it possible that he has a learning disability and what resources are there for a child that is not yet in the public school system?

Answer:

If you are concerned about your child’s learning ability, by all means have him tested. You can contact private psychologists or contact your county or state educators. It will give you some information and relieve your anxiety. At such a young age, the results of the testing won’t necessarily determine whether he has a learning disability, but could indicate a learning DELAY which just means he has some catching up to do.

To help him catch up, regardless of the testing results, make the learning FUN! If you don’t already have them, get magnet letters for the fridge and letters for the tub. Help him recognize the letters in his name first. Play the memory game with him using the alphabet. Start with just 5 or 6 matching sets. Play alphabet bingo with him. And most importantly be positive and have fun! Always tell him he’s doing a good job.

Jo Ann D. LoRusso, Ph.D. | The PreK Connection | Early Childhood Special Education Consultant

Dr. LoRusso has degrees in cognitive psychology and early childhood special education with a focus in learning disabilities and early literacy. She currently teaches early childhood special education courses at Delgado Community College in New Orleans, works as a special education consultant, and has over 13 years experience working with young children with various types of learning issues.

I am an adult struggling with books. Where can I get help?

Manju Banerjee, Ph.D.
Manju Banerjee, Ph.D.

 

Question:

I am an adult who has struggled with books for years. I so desperately want to read, but don’t know where to go for help. I am a visual learner and get distracted easily. I can draw any picture in my head and write poems and stories easily…but I cannot read. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:

What you are describing is not uncommon and you are not alone. Reading is a really complex process, and while we are programmed to learn language as humans, we are not programmed to read. While most believe that the primary difficulty with reading is phonological awareness, that is, sound-symbol association, we are also learning that visual and auditory attention can play a significant role for some individuals with reading difficulties. Recent research by Dr. Matt Schneps, Director of the Center for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian, shows that adjusting the display of print can make a difference. For example, he demonstrates that reading on an iPod (or iPad) where the text has been adjusted to 3 to 4 enlarged words per sentence, made a difference in both reading fluency and comprehension for some readers.

A suggestion to help would be the use of audio books, particularly, with the highlighting feature. The highlighting makes you focus on each word while you hear it being read out loud. Multi-sensory input stimulates different part of the recognition system of our brain and helps with the reading process.

Other resources include:

  • Learning Ally is the largest audio book lender in the country. They provide access to audio books for struggling readers.
  • There is a text-to-speech app called Voice Dream Reader. It will read digital text for you.
  • You might contact the Haskins Lab at Yale to receive more targeted intervention information.
 

Manju Banerjee, Ph.D. | Vice President and Director, Landmark College Institute for Research and Training (LCIRT), Landmark College, Putney, VT
Dr. Banerjee has over 28 years of experience in the field of learning disabilities, AD/HD, and postsecondary education, and is a certified diagnostician and teacher-consultant on learning disabilities. She has published and presented extensively, both nationally and internationally, on topics such as Universal Design for Instruction, disability documentation and accommodations, and technological competencies for postsecondary transition and online learning. She is an editorial board member of the Journal of Postsecondary Education Disability, Professional Advisory Board member to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, and a consultant to Educational Testing Service. She received her doctoral degree from the Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut, on the application of Universal Design to assessment practices.

Where can I get assessment information in college?

Arlene C. Stewart, Ed.D.
Arlene C. Stewart, Ed.D.

Question:

I spoke with my college adviser about being assessed for a possible learning disability, but I have not received a reply. Where can I get information about LD assessment needed to receive services from my college?

Answer:

Although it seems you made an appropriate request for guidance, an advisor may not have the information you need. You should contact the Disability Services office on campus. Should you have difficulty finding that office, the Dean of Students can give you contact information, location, etc.

Colleges and public schools operate under very different legislation. Public schools, under IDEAA, must provide assessment, appropriate services, and assure success. On the other hand, postsecondary education institutions operate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (as amended) and Section 504 (Subpart E) of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under this legislation, postsecondary institutions must ensure access after a student has been accepted. Students must then provide documentation and must request specific services.

The task for a college services provider is not establishing the existence of a disability, but figuring out what can be provided to give a student appropriate access. For that they need documentation that gives specific information about strengths and needs. Most colleges have a set of guidelines for documentation and maybe even a list of psychologists in the area who provide the needed full psychological assessment. Although some colleges are not requiring real extensive documentation, you may want to get a full assessment to give them the best information on how to work with you.

Once you’ve provided comprehensive information about how you learn, and you have had an opportunity to discuss the report with someone in the Disabilities Office, you will be expected to request specific accommodations, such as extended time on tests or notetakers. If you have given the Disabilities Office appropriate documentation and you have made the request for services, the school must provide reasonable accommodations. The Disability Services office will be able to give you the specifics on which services are reasonable and on how to request those services.

Find out even more about this topic by clicking here.

About the expert:

Arlene C. Stewart, Ed.D.

Dr. Stewart is Director of Student Disability Services at Clemson University, Clemson, SC. She has worked in all levels of education with the majority of her work in the post-secondary area. A frequent presenter at state, regional, and national conferences, she is currently a member of LDAA’s Public Policy Committee and has been a LDA state president.

Is a Learning Disability Considered a Mental Illness?

Larry B. Silver
Larry B. Silver, MD

Question:

If someone has a learning disability can it be considered a mental illness? We have a wonderful club in our city for those who suffer from mental illness. I have a friend who has a learning disability. I am curious if he can use their services.

Answer:

No, a Learning Disability is not a mental illness. Learning Disabilities are neurologically-based. They result from “faulty wiring” in specific areas of the brain. These disabilities will impact on an individual’s ability to process and to use information and, thus, can impact on this individual’s ability to be successful with reading, writing, math, and other learning tasks.

For more information on learning disabilities:

New to LD
Related Disorders of a Learning Disability

Larry B. Silver, M.D.
Dr. Silver, a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, recently retired from private practice. He is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the Georgetown Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He has more than 150 research, public policy, and clinical publications, including his popular book for parents, The Misunderstood Child, now in its fourth edition. Silver has been active in LDA since 1969 and served as LDA President from 2000-2002. He currently co-chairs the LDA Professional Advisory Board.

Where Can I Find an Affordable Option for Diagnostic Testing?

Robin P. Church

Question:

I am trying to find any resources to help my daughter. She is in first grade at a private school. Her teacher has expressed concern over my daughter’s grades, especially in reading and writing. I am trying to find the best route to get her tested. Everything I have seen is extremely out of price range. I am not sure if I am missing any resources that we can benefit from. Where can I go to get affordable testing?

Answer:

Teachers in the early grades are often the best predictors of which students are truly struggling and may need additional support to succeed academically. While there is a broad range of normal development when it comes to learning to read and write, teachers who are experienced with first graders usually have a very strong sense of which students need to be watched closely.

The first thing I would recommend is a meeting with the teacher to get more specifics regarding the teacher’s concerns along with some examples of work product that demonstrate those concerns. I would ask if there is a reading specialist at the school that could evaluate your daughter, and perhaps provide some extra one-on-one instruction to gain insight into her needs and to look for signs that further testing is needed.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act includes the Child Find mandate. Schools are required to locate, identify and evaluate all children with disabilities from birth through age 21. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3))

The Child Find mandate applies to all children who reside within a State, including:

  • children who attend private schools and public schools,
  • highly mobile children,
  • migrant children,
  • homeless children, and
  • children who are wards of the state.

This includes all children who are suspected of having a disability, including children who receive passing grades and are “advancing from grade to grade.” (34 CFR 300.111(c)) The law does not require children to be “labeled” or classified by their disability. (20 U.S.C. 1412(a)(3)(B); 34 CFR 300.111(d)).

If the private school your child attends cannot provide an evaluation, you should contact child find office of the local public school system your child would be attending, and request that they complete an evaluation to determine if your daughter has a learning disability. Such an evaluation must be provided by the local school system at no cost to the parent.

Robin P. Church, Ed.D.
Dr. Church is currently the Senior Vice President for Educational Programs and Executive Director of School Programs at The Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore; as well as Associate Professor of Education at The Johns Hopkins University.

Adults with LD: Evie Lindberg Story

Kodak 050512 Evie 010[1]Watch the success story of LDA member Evie Lindberg, a child with a learning disability who grew up to become an adult with a learning disability. Evie never gave up in school and with determination and help from her parents and teachers earned not only her bachelor degree but also her masters and doctorate while also a wife and mother. Evie is a true testimonial that you can attain success by never giving up!

Evie is seen in the center of the photo to the right holding her diploma for her Doctorate of Education degree.