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March 02, 1984 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 1984-03-02
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MEDICINE

Newsweek
OnCamuusN

OvrcomingDyslexia
A misunderstood disorder frustrates its victims, but
new programs help them continue their education.
D ebra Schulze, a 26-year-old engi- were administered, 80 percent of them to
neering student at Hunter College, the learning disabled.
has spent more than two years in Colleges do give allowances for certified
therapy. She now feels in control of her life, learning disabilities when making admis-
but she remembers how it used to be: sions decisions; handicapped students, in
"You're angry. You don't care what goes on fact, stand a slightly better chance of admis-
around you. You only care that something sion than nonhandicapped students with
is wrong. You can't function in the world." the same test scores. But after admission, a
The condition that almost ruined new battle begins. Learning-disabled stu-
Schulze's life is dyslexia, a learning disorder dents may study as long on a routine day as
in which the brain cannot proc-
ess correctly either visual or
aural information. Dyslexics
may confuse similar words
(reading "quiet" for "quite"),
reverse letters ("b" for "d") or
jumble word order ("Go sleep
to"). They frequently exhibit
poor skills in memory, coordi-
nation and organization. This
can make learning excruciat-
ingly difficult, even though
dyslexics are often above aver-
age in intelligence.
Dyslexia is not uncom-
mon-an estimated 25 million
Americans suffer from it-yet
its cause is unknown, and many F
dyslexics are misdiagnosed.
Debra Schulze's learning prob-
lems were first blamed on
schizophrenia, then mental re-
tardation; finally diagnosed
correctly at 23, she was lucky. Ira Wyman
Officials at the Maryland- Helping hands: Curry College's PAL program, Antonoff
based Orton Dyslexia Society
estimate that fewer than 1/10 of1 percent of. nondisabled students would for final exams.
dyslexics are properly diagnosed. "Because they are so bright, they may spend
"Say you're born without an arm," says endless hours trying to go back and under-
Lynne Hacker, a New York speech-and- stand," says Gertrude Webb, director of the
language pathologist who specializes in Learning Center at Curry College near Bos-
treating dyslexia. "At least people can see ton. "It's an extremely exhausting process."
that. But a person with a language disabil-
ity-no one can see that, and you don't get urry pioneered a system to help dys-
any compassion or understanding." Worn lexics deal with college life. Its 12-
out by years of frustration, many dyslexics year-old Program of Advancement
simply giveup ontheideaofgoingstocollege. in Learning (PAL) offers individual tutor-
Over the past decade, however, new steps ing and small-group work to about 100 stu-
have been taken to help dyslexics reach dents, all of whom carry a full course load
college and stay there. High-school pupils and are encouraged to pursue their aca-
with learning disabilities can request special demic strength. PAL graduates have gone
arrangements for the Scholastic Aptitude into law, fashion design and carpentry,
Test (SAT) and the American College Test- among other fields. "Once they can cope
ing Assessment (ACT). Says Marjorie Ra- with language," says PAL founder Webb,
gosta of the Educational Testing Service, "they can do whatever they want." Similar
which administers the SAT: "All special programs have since begun at Hofstra,
testing is done on a one-to-one basis, and SouthernIllinois and a dozen other colleges.
timing is up to the student and proctor. In Some institutions rely on less formal
essence, that means unlimited time." Last measures-such as allowing dyslexic stu-
year more than 5,000 "nonstandard" SAT's dents to tape-record lectures, take untimed
NEWSWEEK ON CAMPUS/MARCH 1984

tests or prepare oral presentations rather
than written papers. "We try to provide an
environment that encourages learning-dis-
abled students to go at their own pace," says
Harriet Sheridan, dean of the college at
Brown. But some professors balk at the
special treatment. "My battle," says Sheri-
dan, "is to convince others that it is possible
to have language problems and still be able
to think at a high level."
Graduate and professional schools seem
more reluctant to accommodate the learn-
ing disabled. Although the Graduate Man-
agement Admission Test (GMAT) and the
Graduate Record Examination (GRE) can
be "nonstandard administered," the Law
School Admission Test (LSAT) cannot.
But a breakthrough occurred last fall when
the Georgetown law school waived the

Bernard Gotfryd-NEWSWEEK
screening student at NYU
LSAT requirement and admitted a dyslexic
woman. At present only one professional
school in the country, New York University
College of Dentistry, offers special assist-
ance to dyslexics. Begun in 1979 by Dr.
Stanley Antonoff, the program demon-
strates a variety of ways in which students
can compensate for their disability.
Antonoff concedes that professional
training presents extraordinary problems
for dyslexics. The academic load is greater
than in college, and the learning process is
largely visual, not auditory; in addition,
state licensing requirements demand many
prescribed courses, thus depriving dyslexics
of flexibility in course selection. Still,
change appears to be poming. Antonoff has
organized a national conference on learning
disabilities among professional-school stu-
dents, to be held in Dallas March 10. He
hopes his four sons will-like Antonoff
himself-overcome severe dyslexia to pur-
sue professional careers.
BILL BAROL with CYNTHIA I. PIGOTT
31

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