School can be a challenge for anyone. Overcoming challenges is part of what gives students a feeling of accomplishment when they learn a new concept, perform well on a test, and earn a degree. But for some, school can be challenging in a way that prevents them from reaching their full potential. This may be a result of a learning difference or learning disability. These students may struggle in academic environments, not because they lack intelligence, talent, or work ethic but because they process information differently. Students with learning disabilities and learning differences can succeed with accommodations intended to improve functioning and performance.
Providing academic opportunities for those with learning disabilities and learning differences can occur through structured programs designed to help students adapt to and thrive in the college environment. Villa Maria’s Achieve Program is one such program and is a unique support system for students with learning disabilities and learning differences.
The following is an overview of common learning differences, the signs of possible learning differences, and methods used to assist students who live with them. This information is intended to raise awareness of learning differences and empower students to pursue their goals.
What are learining differences?
It is called a “learning difference” because these individuals learn differently, not because they are unable to learn at all. However, some people with a learning difference may meet the medical criteria for a learning disability. Individuals with this diagnosis process information differently at the psychological and/or neurological level, which can result in differences in learning. But a learning difference can also arise from executive functioning disorders that don’t merit a diagnosis but are nonetheless disruptive. Disorders of executive functioning are marked by challenges with procrastination, disorganization, and emotional regulation.
It is important to note that a learning disability can only be formally diagnosed by qualified practitioners in the areas of medicine or psychology. From there, a student and their support system can decide how it impacts the student’s learning and if accommodations are necessary.
What are some common learning differences?
While a learning difference does not define a student or their educational experience, it can be helpful to have it recognized so that a student and their support system can determine what sort of accommodations, if any, they may benefit from.
Achieve specializes in working with individuals who experience the following learning differences:
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Auditory Processing Disorder
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Visual Processing Disorder
When to seek academic accommodations
Individuals typically live with a learning difference their entire lives but may not realize they are experiencing it until later. For instance, more adults are being diagnosed with ADHD for the first time. It is also possible for a young student with a learning difference to have adapted using coping mechanisms. Or perhaps they have just underachieved. But as a student advances in their education, they may not be able to adapt as easily to more advanced subjects, workloads, and newfound freedom in college.
Achieve is for students who have previously qualified for accommodations and wish to continue receiving support in college. It is also for those who are seeking formal assistance and support for the first time. Villa provides additional student-focused resources to all learners on campus. For those who aren’t sure what services are the best fit for them, Villa can help connect you to medical providers specializing in evaluating students for learning differences.
Signs of learning disabilities and differences
If you are concerned you are experiencing a learning difference or a related disability, it can be helpful to know what the signs are. Keep in mind that this list is geared towards adults and that differences can present differently in children.
Some signs are:
- Difficulty reading and/or writing
- Having difficulty reading social or facial cues in others
- Weakness in number representation and processing
- Difficulty in understanding words and language
- Impulsivity, poor time management, and difficulty remembering information
- Difficulty with word accuracy and comprehension
How learning differences can impact achievement
Learning differences can impact students in a variety of ways. These can range from subtle effects on mental performance and interpersonal interaction to major hurdles to achievement and meaningful relationships. It’s also possible that a student may not notice their learning difference at all.
Note that mental health issues can also impact cognitive performance. Villa’s Achieve Program works with those whose anxiety, depression, or PTSD impacts their academic performance. The learning difference that results from these mental health disorders may not be a learning disability in the medical sense but may still deserve consideration and accommodation.
Receiving academic accommodations
Villa’s Achieve Program was designed for those with the drive to succeed in college environments. We provide a range of support and resources so that individuals can perform their best. These include assistive technologies, tutoring, and academic accommodations. On-campus counseling and career readiness services are also available for all students.