College Students with Learning Disabilities


Learning Disabilities are:

  • Perceptual disorders that affect the manner in which individuals with normal or above average intelligence take in, retain, and express information. It is commonly recognized as a significant deficit in one or more of the following areas: oral expression, listening comprehension, mathematical calculation or problem solving. Individuals with learning disabilities also may have difficulty with sustained attention, time management and/or social skills.
  • Presumably because of central nervous system dysfunction.
  • Often inconsistent—a learning disability may persist throughout life but the problems manifested may change depending upon the learning demands and the setting. It may cause problems in grade school, seem to disappear during high school, and then resurface again in college. It may manifest itself in only one academic area, or may impact an individual's performance across a variety of subject areas and disciplines.
  • Frustrating! Because a learning disability is not visible, teachers, parents, and peers often do not understand the challenges faced by individuals with learning disabilities. Consequently, many adults with learning disabilities often have to "prove" to others that their invisible impairments are disabling.
  • Disorders that occur worldwide, regardless of racial or ethnic origin.

Many college students with learning disabilities are intelligent, talented and capable. Typically, they have developed a variety of strategies for compensating for their learning disabilities. However, the degree of severity of the disability varies from person to person. Individuals who come from different cultural and language backgrounds may exhibit many of the oral and written language behaviors cited here but are not necessarily learning disabled by virtue of this difference alone.

Learning Disabilities are not:

  • A form of mental retardation or an emotional disorder.
  • The result of another impairment, environmental or cultural influences.

Do any of the the following difficulties get in the way of learning?

Reading Skills

  • Slow reading rate and/or difficulty in modifying reading rate in accordance with the material's level of difficulty
  • Uneven comprehension and retention of material read
  • Difficulty identifying important points and themes
  • Incomplete mastery of phonics, confusing similar words, difficulty integrating new vocabulary
  • Skips words or lines of printed material, and has difficulty reading for long periods of time

Written Language Skills

  • Difficulty planning a topic and organizing thoughts on paper
  • Difficulty with sentence structure (e.g., incomplete sentences, run-ons, poor use of grammar)
  • Frequent spelling errors (e.g., omissions, substitutions, transpositions)
  • Difficulty proofreading written work and making revisions
  • Essays are often limited in length
  • Slow writing
  • Poor handwriting (e.g., poorly formed letters, trouble with spacing, overly large handwriting)
  • Inability to copy correctly from a book or the blackboard

Oral language Skills

  • Inability to concentrate on and comprehend spoken language when presented rapidly
  • Difficulty orally expressing concepts that they seem to understand
  • Difficulty speaking grammatically correct English
  • Difficulty following or having a conversation about an unfamiliar idea
  • Trouble telling stories in sequence
  • Difficulty following oral or written directions

Mathematical Skills

  • Incomplete mastery of basic facts
  • Reverse numbers (e.g., 123 to 321)
  • Confused by symbols, especially + and x
  • Copy problems incorrectly from one line to another
  • Difficulty recalling the sequence of operational concepts
  • Difficulty comprehending word problems
  • Difficulty understanding key concepts and applications to aid problem solving

Organizational and Study Skills

  • Difficulty with organizational skills
  • Time management difficulties
  • Slow to start and complete tasks
  • Inability to recall what has been taught
  • Lack of effective notetaking abilities
  • Difficulty interpreting charts or graphs
  • Inefficient use of library or reference materials
  • Difficulty studying for and taking tests

Attention and Concentration

  • Trouble sustaining attention on school-related tasks
  • Fluctuating attention span/easily distracted by outside stimuli
  • Difficulty juggling multiple tasks and overloads quickly

Suggestions for College Students:

  • If you know you have a Learning Disability, and you have documentation: meet with the Disability Services Program Advisor and the Coordinator, and talk to your instructors before the term begins.
  • If you think you may have a learning disability, but aren't sure, contact the Disability Services Office.
  • Set realistic goals and priorities for coursework.
  • Keep only one calendar with all relevant dates, assignments and appointments.
  • Use a tape recorder during lectures. Selectively tape record key points using the "pause" switch.
  • Sit toward the front of the classroom to maximize your contact and to reduce distractions.
  • Listen to the tape or review notes as soon as possible after class to refresh your memory and to fill in any gaps.
  • Estimate how long a given class assignment will take, generally planning on 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour in class. Build in study breaks; fatigue is a big time waster.
  • Make notes of any questions you might have so they can be answered before the next exam.
  • If you are having trouble or feel overwhelmed, seek help before you fall behind in your work.

(From the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin-System UW-Madison, McBurney Disability Resource Center)


Community Resources for Learning Disabilities Testing

  • John Adler, Ph.D.
    510 NE Roberts #330
    Gresham, OR 97030
    503-251-4088
    Cost: Call for information
  • Jim Johnson, Ph.D.
    Board Certified Disabilities Analyst
    516 SE 71st St.
    Portland, OR 97215
    503-252-3906
    Cost: Call for information
  • Molly C. McKenna, Ph.D., 
    Licensed Psychologist,
    6274 SW Capitol Highway,
    Portland, OR 97239
    503.740.7015
    Cost: Call for information
  • Julia A. Wong-Ngan, Ph.D.
    Clinical Psychology, Neuropsychology
    5531 SW Macadam Avenue, Suite 358
    Portland, Oregon 97239
    Phone: 503-242-0490Fax: 503-242-0492
  • Nancy Bryant, Ph.D.
    1785 Willamette
    West Linn, OR 97068
    503-655-3505
    Cost: Call for information
  • Psychology Service Center
    (downtown Portland)
    511 SW 10th St/Suite 400
    503-352-2400
    Cost: Call for information
  • Jeff Guardalabene, Psy.D.
    6221 NE Fremont,
    Suite 202
    Portland, OR 97213
    503-281-7888
    Cost: Call for information
  • Western Oregon University
    Attn: Ken Kosko, MS
    Licensed School Psychologist
    Education Evaluation Center
    345 N. Monmouth Ave.
    Monmouth, Oregon 97361
    503-838-8751, or
    EEC 1-800-541-4711
    Cost: Call for information
  • Richard Rosenberg, Ph.D.
    Clinical Psychologist
    2303 E Burnside, Suite 201
    Portland, OR 97214
    503-295-3413
    (IQ testing only)
    Cost: Call for information
 

Please Note: Other resources in the community exist. Some insurance companies cover the cost of testing. Listing of a resource does not constitute endorsement of the service.


Additional Resources for Employment Assistance

  • Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Services-East
    305 NE 102nd Ave., Suite 200
    Portland, OR 97220
    Phone: 503-257-4412
    V/TTY: 503-257-4412
    Fax: 503-257-4333
© 2014 Mt. Hood Community College | 26000 SE Stark St. | Gresham, OR 97030 | 503-491-6422
 Last Modified: 3/11/2009 02:51:55 PM