Accommodating Students with
Learning Disabilities

Florida Atlantic University

An Informational Brochure from the
Student Accessibility Services
Division of Student Affairs



 Learning Disability is defined as a disorder affecting the manner in which an individual with average or above average intelligence takes in, retains and expresses information. Such a disability is commonly recognized as a significant deficit in one or more of the following areas: basic reading skills, reading comprehension, written expression, mathematical calculation, mathematical reasoning, listening comprehension or oral expression. Individuals with learning disabilities may also have difficulty with sustained attention and time management. The degree of severity varies among individuals. Substantial research in the field of cognitive learning indicates there is a neurological basis for a learning disability.

Such a disability may manifest itself in only one academic area or impact a variety of subjects or disciplines. Often these students have developed strategies for compensating for their disability.



Many college students with learning disabilities are intelligent, talented and capable.


  • Slow reading rate
  • Difficulty comprehending and retaining information read
  • Difficulty identifying important points
  • Difficulty integrating new vocabulary
  • Confusion of similar words
  • Difficulty following written directions

Written Language Skills

  • Difficulty planning a topic and organizing thoughts on paper
  • Difficulty with sentence structure
  • Frequent spelling errors
  • Difficulty proofreading written work and making revisions
  • Inability to copy correctly from a book or visual presentation

Mathematical Skills

  • Reversal of numbers
  • Confusion of operational symbols
  • Copying problems incorrectly from one line to another
  • Difficulty recalling sequence of operational concepts
  • Difficulty comprehending word problems
  • Difficulty understanding key concepts to problem solving

Oral Language

  • Inability to attend to and comprehend spoken language when presented rapidly
  • Difficulty following oral directions
  • Difficulty expressing and presenting concepts orally
  • Difficulty presenting a narrative in a proper sequence

Attention and Concentration

  • Trouble focusing and sustaining attention on academic tasks
  • Fluctuating attention span
  • Distractibility by external stimuli
  • Difficulty completing multiple tasks quickly

Organizational and Study Skills

  • Difficulty with organizational skills
  • Difficulty with time management
  • Lack of organization in taking notes
  • Difficulty interpreting charts and graphs
  • Difficulty preparing for and taking tests



There are occasionally instances where a student is unable to master mathematics or a foreign language because of a learning disability. In those cases, course substitutions may be permitted if the course in question is not essential to the degree program or related to a licensing requirement. If a student feels he/she may be eligible for a course substitution, the student must first contact the Student Accessibility Services (SAS)  for information regarding the substitution process. Specific information is available in the SAS Course Substitutions for Students with Disabilities brochure.



  • Provide a detailed course syllabus with a clear explanation of course expectations and adhere to it as closely as possible.
  • Start each class with an outline of material to be covered and summarize key points at the end.
  • Present new or technical vocabulary in written and verbal form. Terms should also be used in context to convey greater meaning.
  • Give instructions in both verbal and written form. Encourage the student to ask for clarification and rephrase instructions as needed.
  • Announce reading assignments well in advance.
  • Provide adequate opportunities for questions and answers.
  • Provide a review session and study questions before an exam which illustrate both the content and format of the exam.
  • Encourage students to use campus support services (e.g., University Center for Excellence in Writing, math lab, Center for Teaching and Learning).



To be eligible for academic accommodations at Florida Atlantic University, a student must apply for services from the Student Accessibility Services (SAS). Academic accommodations are determined based on self-report of the disability and effective prior accommodations; observation and interaction with SAS counselor, as well as disability documentation submitted by the student. The documentation must be in the form of psycho-educational or neuropsychological evaluation conducted by a licensed psychologist or other practitioner qualified to conduct such an evaluation. The documentation must address the following areas and should include anticipated effects of the student’s functional limitations within the academic setting, as well as suggestions for accommodating the student:

    The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and the Woodcock Johnson Test of Cognitive Ability are two examples of tests of aptitude. If the RIAS or KAIT is used, additional instruments addressing information processing must be administered.
    Current levels of academic functioning in all aspects of reading, mathematics, and written language are required. The Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) is NOT a comprehensive measure of achievement and is therefore unacceptable.
    Information processing should be addressed (e.g., memory, receptive language, expressive language, auditory perception, visual perception, processing speed, fine motor functioning).

It is helpful if documentation includes relevant test scores with interpretation as well as background information about the student’s educational, pertinent medical and family histories that relate to the learning disability. A specific learning disability should be clearly diagnosed utilizing DSM codes.

The evaluation must have been conducted within the past five years; however, the SAS reserves the right to make modifications to this time frame.



After a student has submitted an Application for Support Services and appropriate documentation of a disability to the SAS, the student will meet with an SAS counselor for an intake interview. During the intake, the student will be asked to provide information about her or his experience of disability, barriers he or she has encountered, as well as effective and ineffective prior accommodations. Appropriate accommodations are then determined based on an interactive process between the student and SAS counselor.

The student may be eligible for one or more of the following accommodations:

  • Advocacy
  • Professor notification
  • Notetaking assistance
  • Audio recording of classes
  • Books in alternate format
  • Technological aids (e.g., OCR software, scanner, speech recognition software)
  • Use of calculator/spellchecker
  • Exam adaptations (e.g., extended time to take exams, distraction-reduced setting, audio recorded exams, use of computer, exemption from using scantron)
  • Time management and study skills training

These accommodations are necessary for ensuring complete access to, and full participation in, the educational process. Academic standards are not to be lowered, nor should there be an alteration in the essential nature of the course or degree requirements.


For more information:

Learning Disabilities Association of America

Note: Professors will be notified of the student’s approved accommodations in an SAS Letter of Notification presented by the student. If the student is not registered with the SAS, please refer her or him to the office.

 Last Modified 11/8/16