What is a learning disability? How is a learning disability measured? Is there support in place, or enough support, for college students that have been diagnosed with a learning disability? How does Student Affairs play a role within the community of higher education students with a learning disability? As a current employee for an organization that works with this population, I am faced with these questions on a daily basis—whether I am facilitating an activity with my students at the dorm, or teaching the Technology II course to the 2nd-year students. While I will constantly be faced with these questions, my focus and goal is to give my students the space to simply be college students, LD (learning disability) aside.
As Student Affairs professionals, we do not want to see our students fail. We want to provide the accessibility to our students to succeed in an ever-competing world of professionals in various fields. So, how do I make these “life resources” available to my students? I do it through living by my own personal approach called the “rip the band-aid off method.” I simply rip the band-aid off, or in other words, I just do it. While the learning disability does exist according to a formal medical document, so does the student’s abilities; the physical and mental abilities. As I live in close quarters with my students, I observe how my students react to changed routines, what clubs my students find interest in (photography, cooking, movement, journalism, etc), and more importantly, how the student lives on his or her own without mom or dad. While I am a support and ultimately, a teacher for these students, they are also teachers to me. I am their student. I learn about what my students hope to accomplish down the road, after attending this program, what project they finished at work, or even that they’ve successfully presented their portfolios to their teachers on Portfolio Day. Giving my students the reigns and putting them in charge of their learning only begins to highlight their abilities: communication skills, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills, to name a few.
We should not feel uncomfortable with treating specific and unique populations like the human beings that they are. Student Affairs is in support of the student; it’s in the name! Like I’ve mentioned, as professionals in higher education, it is our primary obligation to give students the inclusive environment that #SAPros perpetuate on a daily basis. An old professor of mine used to always say, “step into the contradiction” it’s okay—it’s alright to ask questions or to dive into something that you’re not familiar with. The great thing about student affairs is that it’s a two-way street, like I’ve mentioned. We give and provide for our students, just like they give and provide for us the same thing: a collaborative environment of learning, inclusiveness, and creativity.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Anne Scheideler Sweet on Academic Advising