Students attending the University of La Verne who have a learning disability can get accommodations from the school to help them take notes, administer untimed tests and other learning support specific to student needs.
The first person to contact is Cynthia Denne, director of student health services and services for students with disabilities. Often the parents of students with learning disabilities contact Denne first.
“We (meet) determine what the disability is, they give us that information, and then we ask for the supportive documentation,” Denne said. “For example, if we’re talking about a learning disorder … to evaluate whether or not there is in fact a disability, we’d need to see a psychoeducational assessment, and that comes from a psychologist.”
A “psychoeducational assessment” evaluates the student’s learning style, strengths and weakness.
The document is then evaluated by the disabled student services review team. Members of the team include Loretta Rahmani, dean of student affairs; Elleni Koulos, director of the counseling center; Leo Barrera, coordinator of the disabled student services; and Carrie Lewis-Hasse, associate dean of the regional campuses.
The team determines which accommodations the student will receive, including extended testing time or books on tape.
“Extended testing time, in a distraction-reduced environment is sort of a usual and customary one for students who have a documented learning disability,” Denne said. “Sometimes we have students who need their text in alternate formats, so we’ll get those books on tape for them. We’ll go through the publishing companies and make those available.”
Adaptive software is also used, which allows a student to feed a document to the program and have it read aloud or take notes verbally and print them.
Patricia Taylor, associate professor of education and coordinator of special education programs at LaFetra College of Education, said the team will be able to send its members to the Center for Neurodiversity, Learning and Wellness for training and advice on what services will best serve disabled students. The Center is a team of LaFetra graduate students, alumni, professors, and individuals with learning disabilities who develop services for disabled students. She said that the team treats academics and disabled individuals as “co-equals.” Project manager Niki Elliot’s office is housed at the Literacy Center.
“We just got funds last year to start it up, so we’ve been thinking about it for a while,” Taylor said. “Then Tony LaFetra donated $10 million and part of that money is going to the center.”
Taylor said other accommodations include special tutoring and preferential course selection.
After the team determines what accommodations a student will receive, they draft a letter that the student can give to their instructors, which details the accommodations they will need for each class.
“Cindy (Denne) sends letters to the faculty whom the person is enrolled with, and the letter’s just basically saying ‘I have this student, and this student needs these accommodations’ whether it be extra testing time or help with notes or anything else,” John Bartelt, professor of education technology, said.
Aryn Plax can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.