Resources & Support for College Students with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, or Dyscalculia

Whether entering trade school or earning your master’s, higher education poses a number of unique challenges. Students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia face many of those same challenges, and sometimes even more. The purpose of this guide is to increase understanding of and awareness for college students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia, and provide resources and expert insight they can use to help them find success.

Last Updated: 07/21/2020
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MEET THE EXPERT

Dr. Manfredi

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Dr. Manfredi is a neuropsychologist and certified school psychologist in private practice in Bensalem, PA. She specializes in the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders throughout the lifespan, with particular emphasis on learning differences and disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. For more information about Dr. Manfredi or her practice, please visit www.neuroassessconsult.com.

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Transitioning to college can be challenging for anyone, but for students with dyslexia, there can be additional hurdles. Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities, affecting about 20% of the population – yet only a quarter of young adults experiencing dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia inform their college. This can create additional barriers to school success for these students. These learning disabilities — combined with the lack of help in studying, test-taking, and understanding course material — can result in students achieving poor grades and becoming discouraged by higher education.

This guide helps students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia understand how to manage their disability while succeeding in college. There are support systems for those who have these conditions, and it’s important to take advantage of tools and resources to ensure that success is within reach. Read on to learn how you can achieve your education goals and conquer college.

Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, & Dyscalculia in College

Understanding dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia can be tough if you have never experienced a learning disability. In fact, some people might have it and not even know it. It’s not uncommon for students with these specific learning disabilities to assume they are just subpar students, but that’s not the case. Let’s look at what all three of these learning disabilities entail, how they affect students, and how they can impact college learning.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia can affect the way a person reads, writes, spells, and speaks. How dyslexia presents is unique to the individual, but for the most part, it’s a condition in which the brain has trouble putting together the sounds that letters and words make. Signs can include difficulty spelling, slow reading, mispronouncing words, a delay in learning to read, and trouble with understanding text.

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Dyslexia & College

College requires a great deal of reading and writing. From reading long assignments and novels in history class to taking notes in a lecture course, students are constantly with pen and paper. Those with dyslexia can find that these tasks seem simple for others but very difficult for them. Even with increased study time and paying perfect attention in class, those who have not been diagnosed might find themselves falling behind without understanding why.

What is Dysgraphia?

What is Dyscalculia?

Making College Work with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, & Dyscalculia

There’s little doubt that dyslexia, dysgraphia, & dyscalculia could affect someone’s educational success. The good news is, there are several solutions to help make classrooms, studying, and test-taking easier. Now that we know how they can affect you, let’s take a look at support, help, and solutions.

Find Environments That Work for You

Everyone is different when it comes to their preferred learning environment, whether they are dealing with a disability or not. But some might find that certain environments make it easier to handle their disability and still succeed in school.

For instance, smaller class sizes can provide more one-on-one instruction. The option of having a tutor, or extra time with the professor after class, can work wonders for those who have further questions. Along that same vein, students might want to look for classes that are shorter but meet more frequently, rather than long classes that meet only once or twice a week. There are small changes a person can make as well, such as a person with dysgraphia testing out different pens and paper to find one that makes writing work better for them.

It’s also important to consider study environment. A quiet, stress-free, comfortable place can help you think through every word, question, or answer in a methodical way. Since it can take longer for those with these conditions to get their homework or studying done, count on taking more hours outside of class than peers in order to handle the workload.

Manage Your Workload

Study Skills

Get Organized

Rights of College Students with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, & Dyscalculia

It’s very important to remember that those who have a learning disability have certain rights designed to level the playing field with other students. Students should learn about their rights and know how to advocate for themselves. Here’s how.

Working with Your Professors

Though you do have many rights as a college student with a disability, you also have some responsibilities. One of those is ensuring good communication with your professors to ensure accommodations can be met in their classroom. Here are some ways to help open up that dialogue.

  • Share information from the disability office Provide each professor with information from the disability office on the accommodations you need. Remember, you don’t have to disclose your disability, just the accommodations required.
  • Discuss solutions if necessary If a particular accommodation will be difficult to achieve in the classroom, brainstorm with your professor about how to find other ways to make it work.
  • Explain what to expect If you have trouble paying attention in class, let them know. If you have difficulty with reading aloud, let them know. The more details they have, the more they can help you.
  • Have regular “catch up” meetings Speak with your professors on a regular basis throughout the year. Talk to them about how the accommodations are working. You might also want to meet with them when a test grade is low, or you see other problems beginning to creep in that might indicate changes are needed.
  • Don’t hesitate to report problems Though most professors will be supportive, some might be annoyed or believe that the problems aren’t as bad as the documentation says they are. If you ever feel discriminated against at all, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the disability services office or representative.

Learning Rights of Students in Postsecondary Schools

How to Advocate for Your Rights and Ask for Help

Learning Tips and Insight from an Expert

Dr. Manfredi
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Dr. Manfredi is a neuropsychologist and certified school psychologist in private practice in Bensalem, PA. She specializes in the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders throughout the lifespan, with particular emphasis on learning differences and disabilities, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and autism spectrum disorders. For more information about Dr. Manfredi or her practice, please visit www.neuroassessconsult.com.

Q. What can aspiring college students with these conditions start doing right now, well before their first day of higher education, to prepare for the academic challenges ahead?

A. One of the essential components of success is to have a thorough understanding of how they learn best and what strategies are most effective for them. With this understanding, students with learning disabilities can begin to map out exactly what supports and accommodations they need to be successful. Often, this understanding starts with a comprehensive evaluation from a psychologist or neuropsychologist, who can explain how they learn best and help to identify the strategies that might be helpful to them.

Q. What’s your best advice for students who are looking for college accommodations for these disabilities?

Q. Do you have some tips for students who might get some pushback from a professor – perhaps a teacher who doesn’t believe the problem is that bad?

Q. Anything else you’d like to add about college success with any of these learning disabilities?

Resources & Tools

There are abundant resources available for students who have a learning disability. These can be found in their school or community, or online through a wide variety of organizations. Here are some of the options to get you started.

ADA.gov. 

This is the go-to site for information on the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Assistive Devices for People with Hearing, Voice, Speech, or Language Disorders. 

This overview by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides ideas on technology that could help in the classroom.

Assistive Technology Tools. 

Hosted by LD Resources Foundation, this page provides an overview of a wide variety of options for technology to help any student succeed.

Center for Parent Information and Resources. 

This site is filled with fact sheets, including one on learning disabilities that include dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.

College and Dyscalculia. 

This page on the Discalculia.org website provides in-depth information on what to expect from the college experience.

Council for Learning Disabilities. 

Learn all the up-to-date information on advocacy, rights, and changing laws at this site.

Dyscalculia.org. 

This site has a wide variety of information on what parents, teachers, and students can do to handle and even thrive with dyscalculia.

Dyslexia Research Institute. 

If you’re looking for a more scientific approach to these three conditions, DRI is a great place to begin.

Dyslexic Advantage. 

The informative blog posts on this site tackle what the three learning disabilities are and ways to handle them.

Ghotit Real Writer. 

This app can help those with learning disabilities by providing corrections and suggestions to written papers and reports.

International Dyslexia Association. 

This organization offers information for families, professionals, membership, a conference, and much more.

LD Online. 

Though this site is geared more toward younger children, there is a wealth of information available on various disabilities and how they change over time.

Learning Ally. 

This organization provides information on audiobooks and other forms of potential help for those with learning disabilities.

Learning Disabilities Association of America. 

This site focuses on all types of learning disabilities and helps individuals learn to advocate for themselves in a variety of situations.

National Center for Learning Disabilities. 

These organization advocates for the rights of those with all sorts of learning disabilities, including those with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia.

Understood. 

This site focuses on helping users understand those who think differently.

U.S. Department of Education: Disability Discrimination.

Learn about your rights concerning disability discrimination at this informative government site.