A learning disability (LD) is a problem in the way that a person's brain processes information. Simply stated, a learning disability is an information processing problem. They are considered "non-apparent disabilities" because a person with a learning disability shows no signs of being disabled. LD is a condition to be understood and managed. The most common learning disabilities include dyslexia -- a severe difficulty with reading, dyscalculia -- a severe difficulty with math, and dysgraphia -- a severe difficulty with written expression.

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a related form of a learning disability. In fact, Ball State gives similar accommodations for students with ADD as it does for students with LD. For purposes of this section, we are including ADD as a learning disability.

Having a learning disability does not mean being unable to learn. It does mean that the person will have to use adaptive methods to process information so that learning can be accomplished. A learning disability exists when information is absorbed through the senses but inaccurately transmitted to the brain or inappropriately expressed. LD students must receive and transmit information in forms that work best for them. Most LD students who enter college have developed varying degrees of compensatory skills and have learned coping strategies that enable them to circumvent or at least manage some of their deficits. A word processor and an electronic dictionary are excellent examples of the tools available to assist LD students.

Some students go to great lengths to hide their problems for fear that they will be regarded as mentally handicapped and illiterate. The ones who are more likely to succeed in the college environment are those who understand and come to terms with their disabilities, confront them openly, take advantage of the resources that can help them, and recognize and capitalize on their strengths.

Tips for Positive Communication

  • Include our disability statement on the course syllabus and repeat it during the first class meeting.
  • Stress the importance of good study habits and effective time management.
  • Give timely feedback to the student; errors need to be corrected as soon as possible.

Suggested Classroom Accommodations

  • Be open to students' tape recording lectures.
  • Encourage the use of word processor that will help LD students compose, edit, and spell more accurately.
  • Use as many senses as possible when presenting subject matter; it enhances the many ways in which LD students learn.
  • Concepts can be strengthened by using sounds, smells, and visual aids.
  • Use the chalkboard, handouts, videos, group discussions, role playing, overhead projectors, etc.
  • Point out the organizational items in textbooks, e.g., chapter summaries, sub-headings, graphic design, charts, & maps.
  • Give all assignments and course expectations in written and oral form.
  • Incorporate "hands on" and lab experiences when they are appropriate.
  • Consult with the student and the staff of Disability Services when assistance is needed in solving problems.
  • Give students a clear syllabus, listing tests and assignments with due dates noted.
  • Outline the day's lecture on the chalkboard, overhead, or PowerPoint.
  • Give a brief review of the material presented and emphasize key points.
  • Include a time for questions and answers.
  • Encourage all students to take advantage of the Learning Center tutoring services.

Test Accommodations 

  • Allow extra time for test taking (usually time and one half).
  • Arrange for individual proctoring of tests in quiet, separate rooms.
  • Permit oral tests.
  • Explain difficult concepts more fully.
  • Permit the use of dictionaries or spell checkers and thesauruses with word processors for writing assignments.
  • Permit the use of word processors.
  • Go over failed exams with students.
  • Permit the use of calculators for math tests.
  • Explain directions more fully.
  • Use the Learning Center professional staff and facilities to administer tests.