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April 02, 1999 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-02

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10 - The Michigan Daily --Friday, April 2, 1999

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"

After all those years, I was trying to get over all the stigma o
you're an idiot'. It was really about getting rid of an imposed i ea
about my intellectual abilities."
-LSAl senior Leland Parsons

By Asma Rafeeq

00 Daily Staff Reporter

Kindergarten can be a tough place sometimes.
LSA senior Leland Parsons remembers being
teased by classmates and misunderstood by
teachers throughout grade school.
Slow at reading and writing, Parsons was placed in a
remedial class, what he said other kids called the 're-re'
room, short for "retard."
Teachers wondered if he had mental problems and
sent him to see a child psychologist. Others just assumed
he came from a dysfunctional family.
"No one helped me or knew how to help me," Parsons
said.
After being held back from the rest of his class twice,
Parsons was finally diagnosed with dyslexia his junior
year of high school.
But by then Parsons was disenchanted with school,
and after graduating high school he decided to enter the
work world while many of his friends enrolled at presti-
gious universities.
"As soon as I was out, I thought 'forget this - it's
not for me,"' Parsons said.
For eight years, Parsons worked as a nursing assis-
tant.
But when he applied for a job as a patient's liaison at
the same hospital, he was rejected because he did not
have a college degree.
Determined to overcome the disability that had
scarred his childhood, Parsons enrolled in a community
college. Two years later, at age-
29, he found himself at the
University, pursuing a bache-
lor's degree in general studies.:
"After all those years, I was
trying to get over all the stig-
ma of 'you're an idiot,"'
Parsons said.t
"It was really about getting
rid of an imposed idea about
my intellectual abilities."
Learning disabilities
at the University
About 350 students with
learning disabilities are regis-
tered with the University's
Services for Students with
Disabilities Office.
But Stuart Segal, a clinical
psychologist at the office, said
many University students
probably do not register for
help from the SSD office
because of stigmas that can-
surround learning disorders.
Still, Segal said awareness
of learning disabilities is Services for Students with
increasing, and with that, more Manager Deonna Haucen w
and more students are taking office for leaming disorder
advantage of the services avail-
able to them - as evidenced by how many students are
using the SSD office.
In 1993, only 73 LD students were registered with the
office, but since then the number has steadily increased.
Most students with learning disabilities are diagnosed
during grade school or high school, Segal said.
But a large part of Segal's responsibilities at the SSD

office involves screening students who discover they
have a learning disorder during college.
"As you go up the educational ladder, a new institu-
tion may require skills not required at previous places,"
Segal said.
Students with learning disabilities are not less intelli-
gent than others, but they have specific academic weak-
nesses, Segal said.
Academic weakness can include difficulty with read-
ing or writing, an inability to concentrate, a memory
problem or a math disability like trouble with operations
or keeping columns straight.
Segal estimated that 70 to 80 percent of those with
learning disorders are diagnosed with dyslexia.
"Dyslexia is sort of a garbage-can diagnosis for any
reading disorder," he said.
Another common learning disability often classified
with dyslexia is Attention Deficit Disorder, which
impairs an individual's ability to focus on the task at
hand.
Between 2 and 20 percent of the general population
have some kind of learning disorder.
Estimates of people with learning disorders in the
general population vary from .
Finding answers
In high school, Architecture and Urban Planning
senior Kartik Desai gained a reputation for being spacey
and absentminded.
But Desai demonstrated
that he was a good student,
earning A's and B's and
doing well on standardized
tests.
He found ways, he said, to
make up for his inability to
Students focus during class.
"One thing that really
t1.ilfle helped me was just honing
4sa my improvisational skills,"
Desai said.
"Somehow you learn how
to knit what you get out of
class into something compre-
hensive."
But five years ago, when
he began his first semester at
the University, Desai said his
improvisational skills just
didn't cut it anymore.
Unable to concentrate in
lectures and remember what
he had read a few minutes
earlier, Desai began failing
Dana Linnane/Daily his classes. Eventually, the
Isablitles office budget University placed him on
icornes students to the academic probation.
:reenlng. "I couldn't make sense of
it," Desai remembered. "I just
thought I was dumb."
But Desai's grade point average and self-respect took
a U-turn when he was diagnosed with Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder later that year. It was then that
the University made accommodations for his learning
disorder.
"Finding out there's a medical reason you're not liv-

Warren Zinn/Daily
LSA senior Leland Parsons relaxes In his Dexter home with his wife Lisa Paul and their 1-yearold daughter Murdel Paul-
Parsons. Parsons returned to college after being diagnosed with dyslexia during his junior year of high school.

D
we
rsc

ing up to your potential really boosts your self-worth,"
Desai said.
Student services
Secondary and high school students with learning dis-
orders are covered by the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, originally passed as the Education for
All Handicapped Act in 1974, Segal said.
The federal law stipulates that sec-
ondary schools and high schools bear
all responsibility for determining which
of their students have LDs and then pro-
viding accommodations for those stu-
dents.
But the situation is a little different
during college, Segal said.
"At college, the responsibility shifts
from the institution to the individual,"
Segal said.
Section 504 of the Vocational
Rehabilitation Act requires any federal-
ly funded institution to provide accom-
modations to students or employees
with learning disorders. But they are not
required to seek out LD students them-
selves.
At the University, professors and
graduate student instructors are
required to make accommodations for
students who give them a letter from the
SSD office documenting their learning
disorder.
Segal said the No. I accommodation
the University makes for students with
learning disorders is extra time to take
exams.
"If you have trouble reading or pro-
cessing information, extra time just
gives you the opportunity to show what
you know," he said.
Desai said while most of his class-
mates understand that he needs extra
time to complete on exams, some are
resentful.
"A lot of students don't like it because they think it's
just a crutch," Desai said.
"What they don't understand is that I have never fin-

she generally has one or two LD students in every class
she teaches.
She said she is willing to make whatever accommo-
dations are necessary for students, provided they have a
letter of documentation from the SSD office.
She said she also includes a statement in her syllabus
requesting LD students to notify her at the beginning of@
the semester about their learning disabilities.
Parsons said he has also received
special study carrels at the library as
well as extra tutoring time at the
English Composition Board.
Even with the accommodations, he
said, just dealing with misunderstand-
ing classmates can be difficult.
"Sometimes when we do peer review
in class, someone will say to me why
don't you just go to ECB?" he said.
"And I think, you don't know how
much time I've already spent on this,
and that I've already been to the ECB."
Reactions and life
changes:
Lookin into the
future
While considering career choices,
Desai said he took into account his
learning disability.
He switched from pre-med to pre-*
law before finally transferring out of
the College of Literature, Science and
Arts and into the School of
Architecture and Urban Planning.
"Architecture's more forgiving of
learning disability problems," Desai said.
"The bulk of it is creative studio
work - solving problems, design,
which I like."
Under the Americans with Disabilities
Act, which took effect in 1992, employ-
ers of more than 25 workers are obligat-
ed to make reasonable accommodations
for their employees with disabilities.
"Any career choice should take into account individual
interests and skills," said Kerin Borland, senior associate
director at the Career Planning and Placement center.

i. . ... .-....7.

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