Psychologist presents ways to identify learning disabilities in students

Baruch Student Disability Services, the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Student Academic Consulting Center and the Learning Disabilities Project hosted a training session on how to identify learning disabilities in students on Oct. 11, which psychologist and Columbia University professor Dr. Sanam Hafeez presented to CUNY faculty and staff members.

Hafeez, who appeared on the Dr. Oz Show and CBS News discussed the importance of understanding and recognizing learning disabilities and gave examples of reasonable accommodation plans.

A learning disability is an "area of weakness or inefficiency in brain function that significantly hinders [someone's] ability to learn," according to the National Institute of Learning Development.

Some common learning disabilities include dyslexia, a learning disorder within reading, dyscalculia, a learning disorder within math and dysgraphia, a learning disorder within written expression.

While there are only 400 students registered at the office of Disability Services at Baruch, Patricia Fleming, the director of student disability services, estimates that about 10 percent of the CUNY population struggles with a learning disability, adding that most of these disabilities are invisible, or not easily perceived, at first glance.

With a total population of 274,099 students in the CUNY system, 10 percent is around 27,409 students. “I think this is really important because it won’t be students, but the people who are attending this they’ll be able to notice something. They might learn something today that will tip them that a student has a learning disability,” said Fleming.

Some key factors attendees learned to look for are when students have noticeable drops in grades and participation, trending absences, social and emotional withdrawal and difficulty sustaining attention.

But attendees were also encouraged to “develop a clinical eye” and look for when students struggle with open-ended questions on tests and have trouble summarizing. These are only two of the many behaviors attendees were encouraged to look out for.

For attendee Randessa Atherley-Cooper, the training was a chance to increase her knowledge about working with students with learning disabilities.

“Ultimately, I hope to really learn a little more about interfacing with the students with different disabilities,” she said before the training.

Atherley-Cooper, who is currently the community outreach coordinator at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, said she does not work directly with the office of accessibility, so the training would provide her with extra support and knowledge as she works with students with different learning needs. She added, “I think having a better understanding of how we meet their needs, how we service them, identifying the different needs will make me more successful.”

NewsLucy SmithComment