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Office of Disability Support Services
Faculty Handbook

Learning Disabilities

Types of Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities Association

General Information

A student's learning disability is not readily apparent, since a learning disability represents an interference of information processing; such as visual, auditory, perceptual, or language. Due to the hidden nature of this disability, the student may be accused of faking or being lazy.

Students with learning disabilities are not developmentally disabled or otherwise lacking intellect. The student with a learning disability only process information differently from the norm.

Sometimes a student may have a poor self-concept from previous failure and frustration. Most of these students exhibit a high level of inconsistency in the way they perform.

For example, Nelson Rockefeller learned to speak fluently in several languages, but he had to have his speeches written out in large letters and spaced in such a way that he could decipher them when giving speeches. Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leonardo de Vinci, Nelson Rockefeller, Bruce Jenner and Agatha Christie all have or have been reported to struggle with learning disabilities.

Learning disabilities are so individualized that any generalization about specific signs or symptoms is of limited value. Each student will be better able to describe how he or she functions in relation to his or her learning disability.

The college instructor should keep in mind that the learning disabled student's needs center around information processing.

Students with learning disabilities have trouble taking information in through one or more of the senses and expressing that information accurately. The information often gets scrambled. These students may have difficulty with discriminating differences between two like sounds, symbols, or objects. The brain often does not adequately store the information, resulting in what appears to be poor memory. Thus, it is important that students with learning disabilities receive and transmit information in a format that works best for them. This often includes multi-sensory teaching modes utilizing visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning pathways.

Written Language Disorders

Some students with learning disabilities are unable to communicate effectively through printing or cursive writing.  This condition may manifest itself in the written work that appears careless, often including excessive spelling errors.  Some of these students may be able to use a computer for written communications.

Written Expression
Disorder of written expression is a childhood condition characterized by poor writing skills.  Although no systematic studies of the prevalence of this disorder have been conducted, it is believed to be about 6%, or as common as learning and reading disorders.  Children with disorder of written expression have trouble with spelling, make frequent errors in punctuation and grammar, and have poor handwriting.

Visual and Auditory Processing

Visual Processing
A visual processing, or perceptual disorder refers to a hindered ability to make sense of information taken in through the eyes.  This is different from problems involving sight or sharpness of vision.  Difficulties with visual processing affect how visual information is interpreted, or processed by the brain.

Auditory Processing
Students with Auditory Processing disabilities for all practical purposes will be "lecture deaf" (oral receptive dysphasia).  Many of the adaptive techniques that assist deaf students will also assist these students -- note takers, films, role playing, captioned videotapes/DVDs and otehr visual materials.


Signs of Learning Disabilities

Like students without learning disabilities, each student with a learning disability has a distinct combination of abilities and deficiencies and will vary from minimal to severe.

Instructors are encouraged to consult with ODSS staff before making a referral.

Faculty is not expected to lower their standards of teaching excellence.  If you suspect that a student in your class has a learning disability, ODSS can refer the student to an agency outside of LCC for diagnosis.  Many institutions of higher education require current documentation (within the past 3-5 years) in order to provide accommodations for students.

Specific accommodations will need to be individually tailored because LD students will vary depending on their types and degrees of learning difficulty.  Many adaptations used for LD students are the same for some other disabilities.


Suggested Accommodations

Classroom accommodations are determined by Office of Disability Support Services staff based upon documentation provided by the student.  The student will give an Instructor Memo to the faculty member which details appropriate accommodations.  Suggested accommodations could be:

  • Tape recording lectures 
  • Use the chalkboard, handouts, closed captioned videos, group discussions, role playing, overhead projectors, etc.
  • Give all assignments and course expectations in written and verbal form
  • Consult with the student and ODSs when assistance is needed in problem solving.
  • Give students a clear syllabus, listing tests and assignments with due dates noted.  This is especially important if the student is requesting an alternate text format through ODSS.

Test adaptation and administration for students with Learning Disabilities

  • Allow extra time for test taking.
  • Verbal tests.
  • Use of a computer with a thesaurus, dictionary, and spell checker.
  • Use of a calculator for math tests for documented math disability.
  • Utilize Reader Services to read/scribe tests.  Discuss testing arrangements early in the semester.
  • Alternative test formats -- tests on tape, dictating answers on tape, using a computer with spell checker.
  • Avoid the use of Scantron sheets for multiple choice.

Information about Instructor Memos.


Office of Disability Support Services at Lansing Community College

Disability Support Services
Gannon Building - StarZone
Phone: (517) 483-1924
Additional contact information »