October 21, 2002
LEARNING DISABLED STUDENTS
By: Jennifer Gelb, Research Attorney
You asked what programs Connecticut's state colleges and universities offer to assist students with learning disabilities.
All of the state colleges and universities offer programs to help their learning-disabled students. These programs are designed to meet the requirements of (1) section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of handicap and (2) the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). To obtain services, students must submit documentation to verify their eligibility under section 504 and the ADA. The University of Connecticut (UConn) maintains a list of learning disability and disability services contacts for students at all Connecticut colleges and universities, including private ones. The list is available online, and we have attached a copy for your convenience.
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT
The services of UConn's University Program for College Students with Learning Disabilities (UPLD) are available to eligible students at no cost for as long as a student needs them. UPLD is part of the Department of Educational Psychology's Center on Postsecondary Education and Disability. Students without specific learning disabilities can receive
support from the Center for Students with Disabilities, which primarily serves students with physical disabilities such as visual or hearing impairment.
UPLD offers three types of services to help students learn: (1) direct instruction, (2) monitoring, and (3) consultation. Trained graduate-student learning specialists and UPLD administrative staff work with learning-disabled students to develop an effective plan for each individual. Learning specialists also help students identify and use other campus resources, such as the Center for Students with Disabilities, Counseling Services, the Speech and Hearing Clinic, the Writing Resource Center, the Math Center, Mental Health Services, and Career Services.
UConn's learning-disabled students are fully integrated into mainstream classes. UPLD provides letters of verification for eligible students to give to faculty to initiate interaction and facilitate discussion on the student's strengths, weaknesses, and types of reasonable accommodation sought. These accommodations may include (1) extra time on tests, (2) using a tape-recorder for class notes, and (3) taped textbooks. UConn has a formal course substitution policy for students with learning disabilities if the student and UPLD can show that the nature and severity of the learning disability precludes completion of course requirements, despite available accommodations. The policy applies to foreign language and mathematics courses only.
CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM
Central Connecticut State University (CCSU)
CCSU offers programs for disabled students through its Office of Special Student Services (OSSS). To be eligible for OSSS services, learning-disabled students must submit documentation of their disability that (1) is made by a qualified professional, (2) is dated within the last three to five years, and (3) demonstrates a present need for services. CCSU students with disabilities may be eligible for test accommodations on a case-by-case basis, including (1) extended time to finish quizzes and exams; (2) a distraction-reduced testing location; (3) special equipment such as a word processor, magnifier, or braillist; (4) readers and scribes; and (5) alternative formats such as oral or taped tests.
In addition to OSSS, students can access other support services on campus, such as the ADA Compliance Office and the Learning Center. The Learning Center provides tutorials, individual and small group
sessions, a nine-week study skills program called Methods of Inquiry, and a learning styles and study skills assessment. It also operates the Mathematics Center.
CCSU offers designated course sections in mathematics and English composition for students whose disabilities significantly impact them in those subject areas. These sections have the same course content and standards as other sections, but provide additional supports.
Eastern Connecticut State University (ECSU)
ECSU's Office of AccessAbility Services (OAS) offers accommodations to eligible students on a case-by-case basis. ECSU provides priority registration for students with disabilities, and OAS encourages them to meet with its staff for a specific orientation. Students whose disabilities affect their ability to read, write, or take notes may be eligible for assistance from a reader, scribe, or notetaker. Upon request, OAS can help students arrange for alternative test-taking conditions, such as extended time for completing exams, a setting with reduced distractions, or a computer for essay exams. Learning-disabled students can also meet with OAS staff on a weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, or as-needed basis for academic support. This support may include learning strategies, time management, or coursework review. Disabled students who have attempted or can show a history of attempting courses in mathematics or a foreign language without success may qualify for a course substitution.
OAS offers assistive technology for disabled students. It defines assistive technology as a device or technique that a person with a disability can use to minimize the cognitive, sensory, motor, or linguistic limitations the disability might otherwise impose. OAS has cassette recorders for students to use for taking notes, studying for tests, and reviewing class discussions. It can provide, upon request, textbooks on tape to students who have difficulty with reading comprehension. OAS also offers Alpha Smart, which helps with sequential writing and responding, creating word lists, making sentences from vocabulary words, identifying parts of speech, and simplifying notetaking. ECSU's library has computers offering several additional computer programs and a scanner. Additional campus resources include academic advising, the Learning Center, and OAS's resource room, which provides a distraction-free work area for students with disabilities.
Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU)
At SCSU, the Disability Resource Office develops semester plans for each learning-disabled student to help them learn and develop study skills. It currently serves over 700 disabled students, at least 75% of whom are learning disabled. The Disability Resource Office focuses on helping students see the connection between the accommodations they use at school and what they will need and use in the workplace. It accomplishes this by working with the Center for Career Services to place students in cooperative working arrangements and internships. SCSU also participates in the federal Workforce Recruitment Program, which arranges for disabled students to work in government offices for the summer, and Entry Point, an American Academy of Science program that gives students with disabilities opportunities to participate in mathematics and science.
The Disability Resource Office offers Adaptive Technologies' software programs to help students with reading, writing, and spelling. The reading program can scan pages of a textbook and read the words aloud while the student follows along on the computer screen. The writing program helps students organize their ideas for essays and papers. The spelling program offers word prediction and other options to help dyslexic students with phonics and spelling.
SCSU also offers designated mathematics sections for students with disabilities, allowing teachers to supplement traditional course content with additional instructional support.
Western Connecticut State University (WCSU)
WCSU's Disability Services Office (DSO) provides assistance to students with learning and other disabilities. These students are entitled to register early and also receive a special orientation. The office determines accommodations according to each student's needs. These accommodations may include extra time on tests, interpreters for deaf students, and notetakers for students with physical limitations. DSO also offers special advising for undeclared students, proctors students' examinations in the DSO office to reduce distractions, and provides laptop computers for students to use while taking tests in the office or in the classroom.
WCSU is offering two new services this fall: (1) a roundtable discussion for first semester freshmen with disabilities and (2) a writing specialist. The writing specialist will work with students one-on-one to
help them with writing skills and assignments. The Disability Services office also plans to install a "reading machine," which is similar to SCSU's reading software program.
Each community-technical college (CTC) has a designated staff member to help students with disabilities on a case-by-case basis. They assist eligible students in arranging for services, which may include:
1. academic tutoring,
3. group support,
4. mentoring services,
5. course advising,
6. priority registration,
7. readers and scribes,
8. adaptive equipment,
9. coordination with instructors,
10. course substitution,
11. audio-visual and computer learning, and
12. alternative administration of examinations.
In addition, a member of the academic office in the CTC Chancellor's Office is the system contact for disabilities issues and activities. He is also the liaison to the system's Advisory Council on Disability Issues. And the CTC system's Administrative Guide and Guidelines for Faculty provide instructions for serving and teaching students with disabilities.