Butler combats learning disabilities

MARAIS JACON-DUFFY
NEWS EDITOR

Sophomore Breanna Mueller is quiet in her public speaking class COM101, even when the rest of the class talks about television show premieres. Her notebook is color coordinated, highlighted and neat.
Mueller’s diligence during class results from years of compensating for academic challenges.
She has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder and dyslexia.
Mueller found out she had ADHD last semester and has since gone to student disabilities services to get academic help and assistance to combat her learning disability.
“The difference between this year and last year is amazing,” Mueller said. “I am so thankful for the professor last year who recommended I go to SDS to try and sort things out. This is the first time I’ve had academic aid like this and it’s incredible.”
On Butler’s campus, Mueller is not alone. Two hundred fifty-one students recieve accommodations at Butler because of a registered disability.
Afflicted students can qualify for extended testing time, assistance with note-taking, auditory versions of textbooks or private testing in JH136, the student disabilities services’ testing center. All accommodations are individually determined, according to center director Michele Atterson.
Twenty percent of the 251 students registered to receive accommodations have a documented learning disability, according to the office of student disabilities services.
Over the past few years, more students have been coming into college with previous documentation from high school, such as a documented learning disability or psychiatric illness or an Individual Education Program, Atterson said.
“We love this documentation,” Atterson said. “While IEP’s only apply in the K-12 levels, we do review and accept them as official documentation.”
Mueller said she diagnosed with dyslexia in the third grade, but her disabilities paperwork was lost by her school district.
Although Butler doesn’t pay for testing for learning disabilities, Mueller said SDS was helpful in pointing her in the direction of inexpensive and sufficient testing centers.
Atterson said many students may discover they may have a learning disability during their college years.
“Students at Butler are very bright,” Atterson said. “A lot of times, students who realize they have a learning disability later in life may hit the ceiling at Butler. Most of them have probably found ways to compensate for a difficulty in reading or writing, but the vigor of college may be too much.”
Mueller said discovering she had ADHD both enlightening and upsetting.
“It was disconcerting at first, because I realized that there would always be things that I’ll struggle with academically,” Mueller said. “But now that I’ve found the right medication and I have found testing and by recording lectures, academics in general are so much easier.”
Almost half of the students registered with student disabilities services have ADHD, which is not considered a learning disability by the office.
“We don’t consider ADHD a learning disability within itself, but it does present its own set of problems,” Atterson said.
Students with ADHD are able to receive extended time on tests, note-taking assistance or may take tests in the student disabilities services testing center, all dependent on the level of difficulty the student has concentrating.
Atterson said many students with documented disabilities don’t receive assistance because their disability may not affect them in the way their courses are constructed.
Junior Nikki Risselman said she has never gone to Student Disability Services for her documented ADHD because it hasn’t affected her schoolwork while at Butler.
“My medicine is enough to help me focus,” Rissleman said. “I don’t think that what I’ve had to do at this point in my college career would really have benefitted from any of the services I would qualify for.”
Students with psychiatric disabilities can also receive academic assistance.
Dean of Student Services Sally Click said many more students are reaching out to student disabilities services due to mental health issues than in the past.
“If a psychiatric illness is documented and is of a certain level, that student can receive benefits,” Click said.
Atterson said illnesses such as clinical depression, anxiety or performance anxieties and social anxieties are the most common psychiatric illnesses seen by Student Disability Services. If issues correlate with the illness, students can receive more time to complete assignments, pardons for missing classes or even assistance with taking a medical withdrawal from school.
Click urged students who have concerns about their mental health to visit the counseling center.
“The counseling center staff is very skilled at helping,” Click said. “Receiving help is nothing to be ashamed of. It is simply about taking care of needs.”
Atterson said the recognition of a learning disability can be difficult at first but relieving in the long run.
“The whole process is really about self-awareness,” Atterson said.
Atterson said students can drop in to Student Disability Services anytime during operating hours and ask for assistance.
“Our front desk staff is very knowledgeable,” Atterson said. “They have had students wander in before with questions, and we will always get them where they need to go to make the first steps to dealing with a potential disability.”
“The people at SDS are so helpful and so sweet,” Mueller said. “They are able to point almost anyone in the right direction to get help.”
While public universities can receive funding to accommodate students with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Butler does not receive federal funding. However, services through student disabilities services are free for students, with the exception of some equipment purchases for recording lectures and such.

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