Definitions and Characteristics
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Health Related Disabilites
Speech and Language Disorders
Traumatic Brain Injury
A growing number of individuals with disabilities are attending colleges and universities as a result of addressing some of the physical and hidden barriers on campus (Gajar, 1998; Henderson, 2001; Horn & Berktold, 1999; National Council on Disability, 2000). Service providers and researchers reported that the total percentage of students who report disabilities increased dramatically in the last 25 years. According to the American Council on Education, the proportion of full-time freshmen who reported having one or more disabilities increased from 2.6% in 1978 to a high of 8.2% in 1994, and most recently, 6.0% in 2000 (Henderson, 2001).
When the data were analyzed by disability type, a more variable picture emerged. The percentage of students with two types of disabilities remained about the same between 1988 and 2000 (about 3% had speech disabilities and between 15% and 17% had health-related disabilities). For other types of disabilities, the percent dropped between 1988 and 2000. For those with orthopedic disabilities, the percent dropped from 13.2% to 7.1%; for those with visual impairments or blindness, the percent dropped from 30.0% to 16.1% (Henderson, 2001). This decrease may be a result of the change in the institutions sampled, which included only four-year institutions in 2000 (not community colleges). However, the most dramatic change was an increase in the subgroup of freshmen with learning disabilities, which increased from 16.1% in 1988 to 40.4% (Henderson, 2001).
In order to better understand the dramatic increase in the proportion of students with learning disabilities in higher education, Vogel, Leonard, Scales, Hayeslip, and Donnells (1998) drew a random stratified sample of institutions of higher education in the United States. They found that the proportion of students with learning disabilities varied based on the type of institution, the competitiveness of admissions requirements, size of the student body, and degrees offered. Although the proportion of students with documented learning disabilities in higher education overall was about 2.4% of the total student population, only about 1/2% of the total student body in the most highly competitive, public, doctoral granting universities had learning disabilities while about 10% of the student population had learning disabilities in community colleges. The proportion 0f ull-time freshmen with disabilities, listed by disability type, appears in table 1.
Types of Disabilities Reported by Full-Time College Freshmen Attending Four-year Institutions, by Percentage: Selected Years
|Disability (by percentage)||1988||1991||1994||1996||1998||2000|
|Partially sighted or blind||30.0||31.3||27.3||23.7||19.9||16.1|
*Hearing data were not collected in 1998; this figure reflects 1996 data.
Above data should be interpreted in the following way: For Example, in 2000, 40.4 percent of students with disabilities reported a learning disability.
Columns do not necessarily add to 100 percent because students could list more than one disability.
Source: HEATH Resource Center, American Council on Education. (Based on unpublished data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, UCLA, selected years.)
In another study conducted by The National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS) (2000), 9.3% (as compared to 6.0% in Henderson's sample) had disabilities. This sample was identified as those receiving support services, i.e., they had documented disabilities. Unlike the Henderson study, which reported only full-time freshmen who attended four-year universities, the NPSAS sample included undergraduate and graduate students with disabilities enrolled in less-than-two-year institutions, community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities. These differences help us to understand the significant discrepancy between 6.0% and 9.3%. The percent of students with various types of disabilities in the NPSAS sample appears in table 2.
Percentage distribution of students reporting disabilities according to type of disability 1999-2000
|Type of Disability||Percentage of students|
|Orthopedic or mobility impairment||19.0|
|Mental illness or depression||30.3|
|Health impairment or problem||15.1|
|Visual or hearing impairment||11.9|
|Learning disability or ADD||11.4|
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, NCES, 1999-2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:2000).
Not only was there a difference in the overall proportion of students with disabilities, but the distribution by disability type was also different. For example, 51.1% of freshmen students with disabilities reported a learning disability in the NPSAS study, whereas only 40.4% freshmen students reported a learning disability in the Henderson study. Likewise, the number of students who reported a health impairment or health-related disability was slightly higher in the NPSAS study than in the Henderson study. One large difference was the number of students who reported orthopedic or mobility impairments. In the NPSAS 19.0% of students indicated an orthopedic or mobility impairment, whereas only 7.1% of students indicated a orthopedic disability in the Henderson study. Perhaps the difference in numbers is due to the categories used to identify disability type. NPSAS asked students for orthopedic and mobility impairments, whereas Henderson did not ask for mobility impairments. Overall, the numbers of students who reported a disability was slightly higher in the NPSAS study, probably because the sample included students enrolled in less-than-two-year and two-year colleges.References:
- Gajar, A. (1998). Postsecondary education. In F. Rusch, & J. Chadsey (Eds.), Beyond high school: Transition from school to work (pp. 383-405). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
- Henderson, C. (2001) College freshmen with disabilities: a biennial statistical profile.Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education.
- Horn, L., & Berktold, J. (1999). Students with disabilities in postsecondary education: A profile on preparation, participation, and outcomes. U.S. Department of Education, Education Statistics, Quarterly, 1(3) 59-64. Washington, D.C.
- National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Education Statistics, Quarterly, 1(3) 59-64. Washington, D.C.
- National Center for Education Statistics. (2000). 1999-2000 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.
- National Council on Disability. (2000). Transition and post-school outcomes for youth with disabilities: Closing the gaps to post-secondary education and employment. Washington, D.C.: Author.
- Vogel, S. A., Leonard, F., Scales, W., Hayeslip, E., Hermanson, J., & Donnells, L. (1998). The National Learning Disabilities Postsecondary Data Bank: An overview. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 31(3), 234-247.
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Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurologically based medical problem. It is a developmental disability characterized by inattention, impulsivity, and sometimes hyperactivity in a range from mild to severe. It can occur across the lifespan although the characteristics may change depending on the demands of the environment.
College students with ADHD may demonstrate problems in one or more of the following:
- Attentional problems
- Low self-esteem
- Organization problems
- Chronic procrastination
- Low tolerance for frustration
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Visual impairments include disorders in vision that affect central visual acuity, field of vision, color perception, or binocular visual function. The American Medical Association defined legal blindness as visual acuity not exceeding 20/200 in the better eye with correction, or a limit in the field of vision that is less than 20-degree angles.
- Blind students are usually perceptive to the feelings of others because they have learned to listen and interpret nuances in voices
- A visually impaired student may or may not look any different from those with 20/20 vision
- Often that student gets to class early to have a front-row seat
- May look intense and worried if he is straining to see.
- May use a magnifying device.
- May have more peripheral vision than central vision.
- Some students can see certain colors but not others.
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A hearing impairment is any type or degree of auditory impairment while deafness is an inability to use hearing as a means of communication.
- May be shy or a loner because of communication problems with others.
- Vocabulary is usually small, and speech is often affected.
- Some deaf people cannot automatically control the tone and volume of their speech, so the speech may be initially hard to understand.
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Health-related disabilities, sometimes referred to as systemic disabilities, include a large spectrum of chronic illnesses and diseases. Diabetes, epilepsy, HIV, and multiple chemical sensitivity are just a few examples of chronic illnesses. Below are descriptions of each and websites for additional information.
DiabetesDiabetes is a disorder of metabolism. For people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any or enough insulin, which is needed to move glucose, the main source of fuel for the body, into cells. For people with diabetes, glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body. For people with Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces enough insulin, but, for reasons unknown, the body cannot use it effectively.
Epilepsy is a neurological condition that from time to time produces brief disturbances in the normal functioning of the brain. When these disturbances occur, the person's consciousness, bodily movements, or sensations may be affected. In other words, the person experiences a seizure. Having a single seizure does not necessarily mean that a person has epilepsy. When seizures continue to occur for unknown reasons or because of an underlying problem that cannot be corrected, the condition is known as epilepsy. A person with epilepsy can help prevent seizures by taking medication, getting adequate rest, and by avoiding acute or prolonged stress.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV infects and kills off CD4 cells, sometimes called T-helper cells, which help the body fight off infection and disease. When the body loses CD4 cells, the immune system is less able to fight infections and diseases. When CD4 cell count drops below 200, then a person is diagnosed with AIDS. A person with HIV can live for many years.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
The medical community is divided over whether or not MCS exists. Some medical professionals believe that MCS is a disorder either triggered by short-term severe chemical exposure or long-term minimal chemical exposure that leads to an inability to tolerate low levels of everyday chemicals found in soap, inks, cosmetics, and other products.
Characteristics vary according to the type of illness. Often there are side effects from medications that may impose challenges to learning, such as decreased alertness or fatigue. Some of the characteristics and the disability type are:
- Constant hunger & extreme fatigue (Type I Diabetes)
- Frequent urination & infections (Type II Diabetes)
- Blurred vision (Type II Diabetes)
- Seizures (Epilepsy)
- Frequent fevers and rashes (HIV)
- Lack of energy, fatigue, and weight loss (HIV)
- Short-term memory loss (HIV)
- Headaches, rashes, and pain (MCS)
- Confusion and/or fatigue (MCS
The most frequently asked questions about epilepsy:
Allergies: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity:
Living with HIV
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The following definition is the most widely accepted definition of LD and was approved by the members of the organizations that are represented on the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (over 70,000 professionals).
Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the life span. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception, and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (for example, sensory impairment, or mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance) or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influences (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 1998).
Students with learning disabilities may demonstrate one or more of the following problem areas and characteristics which may be either mild, moderate, or severe including:
- Oral Language Comprehension and Expression
- Difficulty perceiving sounds within words in spite of normal hearing acuity leading to sporadic trouble comprehending one's native oral language and foreign language
- Difficulty pronouncing multi-syllabic words resulting in omission or inclusion of extraneous sounds or syllables or confusion in their order, e.g., statistics, anonymity
- Difficulty in comprehending one's native language if presented at a rapid rate
- Vocabulary weaknesses, especially technical vocabulary on an unfamiliar topic
- Difficulty attending to long lectures especially if without advance organizers, periodic mini- summaries, organizational cues, and/or accompanying visuals
- Difficulty expressing ideas succinctly
- Difficulty describing a series of events in correct sequence
- Incorrect grammar different from the person's language community
- Inappropriate prepositions or transition words
- Word-finding difficulties, e.g., exhilarated for accelerated
- Slightly slurred speech, especially when fatigued
- Difficulty learning a foreign language
- Oral language contributions superior to written expression in spite of some oral language difficulties
- Difficulty telling and/or understanding jokes
- Difficulty comprehending oral language because attention wandered, syntax was too complex or convoluted, or because of memory deficits
- Inaccurate comprehension
- Poor retention
- Difficulty finding the important points or main idea
- Problems integrating reading materials and lecture
- Slow reading rate with inability to adapt reading speed to suit a variety of purposes
- Incomplete mastery of phonics affecting unknown words, proper nouns, and/or foreign terminology especially if they are multisyllabic
- Written Language
- Poor penmanship, especially in cursive
- Preference for manuscript (printing) rather than cursive
- Occasional use of manuscript letters (lower or upper case) when writing in cursive, even in the middle of a word, as a strategy to minimize letter reversals and inversions
- Overuse of the upper case, even in the middle of a word or sentence, or omission of capital letters where needed
- Over-large or cramped handwriting
- Poorly formed or illegible letters
- Frequent spelling errors including transpositions of letters (e.g., /ro/for/or/) omissions, additions, or substitutions of sounds and/or syllables
- Attempts at phonetic spelling for non-phonetic words
- Confusion of homonyms or words similarly spelled, e.g., where for were
- Omission of suffixes such as /s/ for plural and /ed/ for past tense or words such as articles or prepositions
- Written language limited in length
- Sentence structure problems varying from an abundance of short, simple sentences, sentence fragments, and run-ons to overly-long complex sentences and/or unacceptable syntax
- Inappropriate use of prepositions and transition words
- Compositions lacking adequate, overall organization, development of ideas, appropriate transition words, and/or vocabulary appropriate to formal written language
- Abundance of punctuation errors or omission of punctuation marks
- Far superior written expressive language when done at home using assistive technology in contrast to in-class essays and exams, especially when written under timed conditions
- Computational skills difficulties resulting from incomplete mastery of basic facts in particular, multiplication facts, and/or the arithmetic algorithms apparent when calculators are disallowed
- Reasoning far superior to computational skills
- Mathematical reasoning deficits
- Difficulty recalling formulas or the sequence of steps in problem-solving
- Difficulty understanding and retaining terms representing quantitative concepts
- Numbers and symbol reversals and/or inversions (such as 6 and 9), transpositions in the order of numbers in a sequence when copying or writing numbers to dictation (as is necessary in taking a phone message)
- Difficulty in copying problems and in alignment of numbers in columns
- Associated nonverbal disorders such as problems in left-right, time, and spatial orientation
- Study Skills Weaknesses
- Organizing and budgeting time
- Initiating efforts on a task
- Note- taking and outlining
- Integrating information from various source
- Test-taking strategies
- Memorizing and self-rehearsal strategies
- Using the dictionary, thesaurus, and other self-help handbooks and/or software
- Acquiring and using library and computer research skills
- Mastering word processing and other assistive technology software and devices
(Vogel, S.A., 2000) College students with learning disabilities: A handbook [7th edition] . Learning Disabilities Association of America, Pittsburgh, PA):
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A variety of orthopedic/mobility-related disabilities result from congenital conditions, accidents, or progressive neuromuscular diseases. These disabilities include conditions such as spinal cord injury (paraplegia or quadriplegia), cerebral palsy, spinal bifida, amputation, muscular dystrophy, cardiac conditions, cystic fibrosis, paralysis, polio/post polio, and stroke.
Student with orthopedic/mobility impairments may have any of the following conditions:
- Pain, spasticity, or lack of coordination
- Flare-ups of intensity of the symptoms
- Periods of remission in which little or no symptoms are visible
- Inability to walk without crutches, canes, braces, or walkers
- Ability to stand or walk but may use wheelchair to conserve energy or gain speed
- Inability to stand or walk and use wheelchair for total mobility
- Limited lower body use by full use of arms and hands
- Limited use of lower body and limited use of arms and hands
- Impairment of speech or hearing
- Limited head or neck movement
- Decreased physical stamina and endurance
- Decreased eye-hand coordination
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Psychological disorders cover a wide range of disorders such as:
- Mood Disorders (Depression, Bipolar Disorder)
- Anxiety Disorders (Panic Disorders, Obsessive-compulsive Disorder, Postraumatic Stress Disorder)
- Psychotic Disorders (Schizophrenia, Delusional Disorder)
- Personality Disorders (Paraniod, Schizoid, Borderline, Obsessive-compulsive)
- Substance-related Disorders
The majority of psychological disorders are controlled using a combination of medications and psychotherapy. Students who have documented psychiatric disorders report some of the following symptoms:
- Reduced concentration
- Difficulty focusing
- Difficulty formulating and executing plans
- Panic in unfamiliar surroundings and situations
- Unexpected absences
- Problems interacting with others
- Problems responding to feedback
- Difficulty handling time pressures of multi-tasking
- Reduced Memory
- Reduced stamina
See accommodations for more information.
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Speech and language disorders may result from hearing loss, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, or physical conditions. The disorder may result in stuttering, problems with articulation, or voice disorders.
- Stuttering (repetition, blocks and/or prolongation's occasionally accompanied by distorted movements and facial expressions)
- Chronic hoarseness (dysphonia)
- Difficulty in evoking an appropriate word or term (aphasia) and esophageal speech (resulting from a laryngectomy)
- Many speech impaired students will be hesitant about participating in activities that require speaking
- New situations may aggravate old anxieties
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain, not degenerative or congenital, caused by an external physical force that may produce a diminished or altered state of consciousness. Injuries may result, for example, from a vehicle crash or sports. TBI may result in an impairment in cognitive abilities or physical functioning. It can also result in a disturbance in behavioral or emotional functioning. These impairments may be either temporary or permanent and cause partial or total functional disability or problems with psychosocial adjustment.
Characteristics depend on the area of the brain that is injured and may include:
- A partial inability to store new memories
- Some loss of specific memories
- Reduced concentration or attention
- Problem with planning, organizing, abstract reasoning, problem solving, and/or making appropriate judgments
- Reduced or slow ability to interpret and/or recognize what is seen
- Difficulty with eye-hand coordination
- Impaired balance and coordination
- Impaired manual dexterity
- Difficulty understanding and producing spoken language
- Trouble recalling words and speaking in complete sentences
- Difficulty using muscles needed to articulate clearly
- Psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety, or anger
- Childish or socially inappropriate behavior
- Emotional maturity similar to individuals of a younger age
Acquired Brain Injury (ABI)
An acquired brain injury commonly results in a change in neuronal activity, which affects the physical integrity, metabolic activity, or functional ability of the cell. Some causes of ABI include near-drowning, toxic exposure, and airway obstruction. ABI may result in mild, moderate, or severe impairments in one or more areas including cognition, speech-language communication, memory, attention, concentration, reasoning, abstract thinking, physical functions, and/or psychosocial behavior.
Characteristics may include:
- Cognitive impairment, especially memory problems
- Severe behavior problems, such as hostility
- Mental illness, such as depression
- Muscular impairments
Causes of Brain Injury:
Information Regarding Brain Injury
Last revised on 11/20/2004
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