Spotlighting Schools with Learning Differences Programs

By: Danielle Chazen
schools with special learning programs

The experience of going off to college can feel daunting to many. Students are presented with a period of unprecedented internal growth and a mix of opportunities and challenges that can be self-defining. Yet when you factor in also managing a learning challenge or disability, it’s important for students to know they’re investing in schools that will also invest in their needs. It can help to select a school which already has built-in resources or programs with proven success rather than one that offers one-off accommodations to meet individual requests.

Verbit is already working with colleges like Stanford University, Oakland University and the University of Utah, which are assisting students by providing them with live captions and immediate transcripts of lectures. Many additional schools are on our radar though for their learning programs and the value they provide to students navigating various academic challenges.

These schools are doing well by doing good by their student bodies. Each school featured has more than 5% of undergraduates formally registered with its office of disability services, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) IPED database.

Beacon College – Florida
Beacon College is the first accredited school to cater exclusively to undergraduates with learning differences. Beacon offers individualized course plans and one-on-one support, including mentoring and life coaching to its students. Students also benefit from small class sizes and the implementation of key technology that assists a range of learners.

College of Charleston – South Carolina
College of Charleston has developed a REACH Program, which offers students who are navigating learning disabilities and those with mild developmental disabilities with a traditional campus experience. REACH is fully inclusive and its students participate in all of the same programs and activities as other Charleston students. There are also social skills training workshops and mentorship programs in place to ensure these students’ success on campus.

Dean College – Massachusetts
Dean University has built the Arch Learning Community, an innovative learning disabilities program which offers individual and group academic coaching, including personalized course advising. Students in this community are invited to weekly seminars, can enroll in smaller-than-average courses, and are provided with tools for a “step-down” approach which encourages each student to become more independent after receiving the proper amount of guidance needed.

Landmark College – Vermont
Rather than provide a single program to aid students, Landmark College has designed the entire school to accommodate those who learn differently. It provides executive function coaching and important classroom technologies, as well as programs, including a Social Groups Cluster for students who struggle with social issues or anxiety. Landmark is also known for its “Bridge Semester” which assists new students to become better attuned to their diverse learning style needs before they begin their studies.

Lesley University – Massachusetts
Lesley University has crafted The Threshold Program, a two-year program that tailors every aspect of the college experience to individuals with varying learning needs. The program specifically caters to those enrolled in Early Childhood Education or Business Services majors to increase their chances of success. Once students have completed The Threshold Program, they can also choose to complete a “Transition Year” before entering the workforce to a “Bridge Year” to continue living on campus and pursue an internship.

Marist College – New York
Marist College’s learning disabilities program has existed for almost 40 years. 10% of undergraduates have reported disabilities and the school sees a graduation rate of nearly 80%. The reason for this success is likely the individual counseling and technology accommodations offered to students. The program also promotes ongoing conversations among students and faculty by encouraging students to advocate for their specific learning needs above and beyond what is already in place.

Muskingum University – Ohio
Muskingum University’s PLUS Program has been in existence since the 1980s. PLUS provides life-long learning skills to help students succeed not only in their studies, but careers. Muskingum has also instituted a sense of responsibility for managing one’s individual needs by providing an environment where necessary student accommodations are encouraged, not an afterthought.

Ursuline College – Ohio
Ursuline College provides the FOCUS Program to aid those with learning disabilities and ADHD. Freshmen are even offered the opportunity to meet with a disability specialist three times each week and get regular progress reports from professors. These progress reports allow students to identify what’s working and any gaps which still exist or are preventing them from achieving their needs. They are then offered tools to ‘wean’ them off of the specialist meetings to become more independent to ensure further success as a professional post-college.

Westminster College – Missouri
Westminster College offers a Learning Differences Program that caters to the roughly 10% of undergraduates who have formally registered with the the disability services center. This program supports students with ADHD, dyslexia, and Disorder of Written Expression, among other challenges. Students are given one-on-one advising and accommodations, as well as supplemental courses in humanities and natural sciences, for example, to promote strong study habits.

An Important Note
Some of these programs are offered just to students who report their disabilities. At Verbit, we’ve seen many instances where all students can benefit from technology and tools which were initially only thought of to assist those managing disabilities.

As a result, more universities are encouraged to adopt proactive stances and offer inclusive accommodations to all students. Offering various tools, such as captions, to all also provides a way to assist those who do not feel comfortable reporting their disabilities for various reasons.