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An Inside Look at Programs for Students with Learning Disabilities

University Business, May 2012

Strategic Learning Alternative Techniques (SALT) Center at the University of Arizona:

A dozen strategic learning specialists are assigned to individual students, whom they meet with weekly and coach on everything from time management to self-advocacy. SALT students get help figuring out how and to whom to disclose their learning disability, and how to approach professors and talk to them. Research has shown that students with learning disabilities need to develop self-determination skills. Students begin work on self-advocacy right away.

In addition, up to 100 specially-trained undergraduate tutors—certified from the College Reading and Learning Association—are on staff to help the nearly 600 students enrolled in the program. They cover any courses those students are taking and help them break down assignments and develop graphic organizers.  For courses with particularly large enrollments, SALT tutors pro-actively communicate with professors about course concepts and projects and hold a session for SALT students taking the class.

Throughout the center, the study carrels and computer stations are large enough to seat both students and tutors.

Program for the Advancement of Learning (PAL) at Curry College (Mass.):

Prospective students interested in PAL undergo a separate application process from others, with no need to submit SAT scores. Instead, the PAL admissions staff depends on clinical information, such as diagnostic and achievement tests and IEPs, developed over these students’ pre-college careers.

There are 15 full-time and 14 part-time PAL faculty members, each assigned a group of 15 students, whom they meet with three days a week in various subsets, including one-on-one sessions, depending on individual needs.

Freshmen receive college credit for their PAL classes, which stress language processing, visual organizing of learning materials, and maintaining self-esteem.  While some of the staff has expertise in areas such as dyscalculia, others specialize in working with student athletes or those in the arts and stay with the same students through their college careers.

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