All Wellesley Students have complex profiles of learning strengths and needs which faculty address when presenting new and difficult material. There are, however, some students with documented learning and/or attention disabilities. They are intelligent, capable students who have met the same rigorous criteria for admission as all other students. They may, however, have significant difficulty in the acquisition and expression of language or other symbolic systems such as mathematics.Reasonable accommodations to their learning, as mandated by Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, will allow these students to demonstrate their learning and their strengths on a par with non-disabled students.
Students with learning and/or attention Disabilities
The National Joint Committee for Learning Disabilities (NJCLD, 1990) recommends the following definition for learning disabilities:
"Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance), or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences."
In practice, college students with learning and/or attention disabilities often present subtle patterns of difficulties. In spite of hard work, high motivation, and previously effective coping strategies, students may experience one or more significant difficulties in processing or expressing information. For example, a student who processes visual information slowly and with difficulty may have problems completing tests and heavy reading assignments within traditional time limits. A student who has significant difficulties understanding information presented auditorily may have problems learning a foreign language, understanding information presented solely in a lecture format, or listening and taking complete, organized notes simultaneously. Problems processing individual phonemes within a word may result in reading and spelling difficulties. Problems with spatial imaging or reasoning may result in significant difficulties in math or in reading maps, charts or graphs. A student who has difficulty understanding and presenting information sequentially may, in turn, have problems understanding and remembering directions. Students with attention deficits may have unusual difficulties maintaining focus, dividing attention between two tasks, or organizing a task.
Some students arrive at Wellesley with a documented learning disability and a history of accommodations and support including, for instance, extended time on tests. Others are not diagnosed until the extensive requirements of college level work overload their previously effective coping strategies.
A student or member of the faculty or staff may suggest to a student that she meet with Jim Wice, the Disabilites Director, to discuss her academic difficulties and the possibility of a learning or attention disability. A student may also initiate the contact herself. Jim Wice will meet with the student for an informal interview and initial screening. If further testing is indicated, he will refer the student to one of several professionals who will complete the formal testing. The report will be sent to the student and Jim Wice, if appropriate, and they will meet again to review the results and develop a plan of action. If the student requires accommodations in certain courses, she needs to request that Jim Wice send a letter to the faculty member. The student and faculty member will then discuss problems that may occur in that specific course and accommodations. Jim Wice is also available to discuss particular issues with faculty.
- Reasonable accommodations for a student with learning and/or attention disabilities are highly individualized and can only be determined in consultation with the student, the Disabilites Director, and the faculty member. The most typical accommodations at Wellesley include:
- Extended time on examinations and quizzes
- Separate room for testing
- Permission for tape recording of lectures
- Alternative route for completion of the traditional foreign language requirement
- Use of computer with spell check
- Taping of texts and other course materials
- Exams or quizzes read and/or answered orally
For more information, please contact Jim Wice (x2434) in the Office of Disability Services