College Choices for Students With Special Needs
College is the anticipated fork in the road for many students, but for those with special needs, this shift is far more uncertain. For students who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), dyslexia, or another learning disability, what are their postsecondary education options? Several programs and schools have been established to cater specifically to students with disabilities, including Gallaudet University, Landmark College, and the SALT program at the University of Arizona.
Founded in 1864 by an act of Congress, Gallaudet University (www.gallaudet.edu) in Washington D.C. has been dedicated to the education of the deaf and hard of hearing. The bill was signed by Abraham Lincoln, and Gallaudet College was born. It remained Gallaudet College until 1986, where another act of Congress approved university status.
“Gallaudet University remains the only liberal arts University for the deaf in the entire world,” said Mercy Coogan, a university spokesperson. This institution teaches approximately 2000 undergraduate and graduate students; numbers that were previously unimaginable from its initial enrollment of eight students. This upcoming semester, for the second time in the history of Gallaudet, hearing students will be admitted. These students have expressed a good deal of interest and are, of course, fluent in sign language. They are often the children of deaf adults.
Landmark College, in Vermont, is the only recognized college within the US designed solely for the purpose of educating “students with average to superior intellectual potential” suffering from dyslexia, AD/HD or other specific learning disabilities. Founded in 1983, Landmark College first welcomed 77 students in 1985, and now, in 2002, enrolls over 350. The motto of this school seems to be, “At Landmark College, students learn how to learn.” From their website (www.landmarkcollege.org), one can see that the college focuses upon the individual, changing its approach to fit the person. In this two-year college, “We address skill deficits–that is, reinforcing reading skills and critical thinking…making it easier for them to become independent students,” says Leatrice Johnson, Dean of Admissions at Landmark.
Within the sprawling campus of the University of Arizona at Tucson, lies the SALT (Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques) Center (salt.arizona.edu), which has enabled thousands of disabled students to graduate with degrees. Founded in the 1980-1981 school year as part of the University Learning Center, it all began with a core of three students that eventually expanded to the 520 students in 2002. Diane Perreira, Director of the SALT Center, spoke with great conviction about the level of support that it provides to the students. “One of the things that is unique [about the SALT center], is that it provides students with a number of options for support. This is, unfortunately, often ignored in an academic environment.” The SALT Center is not subsidized by the state, but, rather, by private donations and SALT students. Unlike many programs for disabled students, SALT has been widely accepted and is highly praised by the President of the University.