Free services offered for learning disabilities

By Michael Berg

Although funds are tight, NIU manages to provide services for students with learning disabilities with no extra financial burden on the students.

“We have developed a group of services utilized by persons having a learning disability,” said Sue Reinhardt, coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities.

Before receiving services, a student must bring verification of a learning disability to the office. “There is no testing to verify any disability at NIU except for hearing impaired,” Reinhardt said. A student can get verification from their public high school, the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Service or a private testing service, she said.

The services include making tests and books available on tape, helping edit papers and assisting in priority registration, Reinhardt said.

“Textbooks, handouts and exams are available on cassette tape,” Reinhardt said. “Often people with a learning disability learn better auditorily than visually.”

“If a student wants someone to go over a paper they’ve written, we supply them with an English major to help get their paper in good shape,” she said.

People with learning disabilities get priority registration so their classes can be spaced out, they can get extra time on tests and they can get recorded materials, Reinhardt said.

“It’s helpful for the learning disabled to not have classes right in a row because it’s too intensive,” she said. “They can also take tests here in a non-distracting atmosphere.”

“We also have IBM-compatible WordPerfect computer access,” she said.

“There are more learning disabled students on this campus than can be handled reasonably by two office coordinators who are also working with many other disabilities,” Reinhardt said. “We have requested a position be made for a staff member with a degree in learning disabilities for the past four years.”

Gary Gresholdt, chairman of the NIU Presidential Commission on Persons with Disabilities, said a position has been requested. “(The commission) has recommended to the president that additional support be provided for people with learning disabilities,” he said. “The president hasn’t acted on it yet mainly because of the budget situation.”

Also, there is no special tutoring service for the learning disabled through Education Services and Programs. Dave Loebach, assistant director of ACCESS, said “We have no skilled tutors (in learning disability). We are geared on physical disabilities.”

To compensate for a learning disabled student, the student must tell the tutor about their disability and the tutor takes a little more time in teaching, Loebach said.

However, although NIU offers services and not a comprehensive program, students do not have to pay extra money.

Southern Illinois University has a comprehensive program dealing with learning disabilities. The program, dubbed “Project Achieve,” provides tutors, note takers, readers, a computer lab, testing and books on tape, said Susie Richter, secretary of the program.

“There are 145 students in the program,” Richter said. It costs $50 to apply, $1000 for diagnostic testing and $1850 in support fees for the semester, she said.