Postsecondary Education

Dyslexia and a PhD!! :O)

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Joined: Nov 03, 2005
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Posted Dec 08, 2001 at 2:31:22 PM
Subject: Dyslexia and a PhD!! :O)

Hello all,
I thought I would drop you a line of advice and encuragment. I have dyslexia and I have my PhD in Biology. I thought I would offer some advice for what worked for me in choosing a college. This comes from the FAQ page of my Dyslexia page. (the link is at teh bottom if you want to read more. GoodLuck!!

Question: Can my daughter go to college?

Reply: College was thousands of times easier than high school!! There are many reasons but the most important are below.

First, professors in college generally want you to succeed. This is a huge mind shift from most grade schools and high schools. I loved many of my high school teachers and with out them I would not be here, but most grade and high school teachers are on their own power trip, and simply refuse to yield to any outside request. (I really don't understand why one would go into teaching and not want to help their students. If your a teacher and can answer this, it would really help clear things up.) Anyway, most professors in college were really great. They have no choice about weather or not they can allow accommodations. They have to allow the accommodations recommended and requested by the college's office of disabled student services. Talk about proactive! I still come across a few instructors that make trouble for me. I recently (in graduate school) had a statistic professor refuse to allow me to take untimed test. After receiving a call from his department head and disabled student services he had to allow me my legal rights. However, he announced to the class that "one of the students in the class was going to be allowed to take the test untimed. They say it's not cheating, what do you think?" There were 12 students in the class. He said this the day before the exam so the students were looking for who was not in class the day of the exam. I caught some of flack from a few fellow students but at least I could pass the class. I received a very low C out of the class, but I passed. Without the accommodation I simply would have never been able to pass the class. [Math teachers are weird about "time". For some reason they think a good measure of a student's ability to grasp the concepts taught is to limit the amount of time a student can spend on an exam. Their thinking is "if a student could not finnish in the time required, then they must not have understood the concepts." This is like requiring a hart surgeon to get in 10 hart surgeries a day regardless of the actual time required to perform the surgery. I have not met a math teacher yet who would want to be the patient of a surgeon who was not allowed the necessary time to perform the surgery correctly. That is all an untimed test is, "the necessary time to perform the test correctly." When people argue that the other students should be able to take the test untimed I answer "Your right!! They should!!" The teacher should actually be testing his/her ability to convey information to their students and not their students ability to take a test! Time is robing all students.]

Second, I received the necessary accommodations. Note takers, untimed exams, books on tape, etc... Not only do people not fight you and try to keep you out of school, but the colleges and universities are actually interested in helping you!! They want you to succeed! Its hard to explain what a night/day difference it is between high school and college.

Third, College students them selves are generally less like high school students. They too are generally supportive and almost never demeaning. It's easier to make friends who are true friends and do not care about your handicap. [Yes, some high schools students are that way too. But high school is generally too much like high school to allow people to be accepted as them selves. As an example, I had one close friend and about 4 others I could talk to in high school. I college I had countless friends and knew most all 1,200 students by sight if not by name at my college.]

Fourth, I had to bust my butt just to graduate at the bottom of my class in high school. Most students coasted through high school without learning how to study. So when they got to college they often struggled with course work simply because they had poor study skills. This put me on more equal footing with my pears.

To put it more simply, college and the atmosphere that came with it, took away all (or most) of the artificial barriers of dyslexia. In college I only struggled with Dyslexia. I did not struggle with other people about my dyslexia. When I read my story on the first page it makes me cry even now. I cry for a lot of reasons but mostly because that little boy should not have had to struggle that hard. He should not have been trod upon by the teachers and the system that was there to help him succeed. College is exactly what grade school and high school should be!

Questions: What college should I chose?

Reply: Small!!! Small!!! Small!!!
The first class I taught had 900+ students! Talk about being a number! I choose a college that had to have 3 very important criteria.

First, it had to be a small college. Student simply get swallowed up at big universities. Some of my closest friends were my biology professors. To give you an example of the community that can exist at a small college: I got a nickname in college 'Darb' (my name backwards). Most of my friends called me darb and a few faculty/administrator types. When I graduated and took my diploma from President Cain's hand, he said "Congratulations Darb!". At a large university you will be lucky if your current professor can recognize your face let alone know your name. So choose small!!

Second, They had to have an outstanding LD department. If the college you chose does not, DO NOT GO TO THAT COLLEGE!!! Its that simple. Either the college is willing to help its students or it is not. You or your child is attending college with the hopes of succeeding. That will require that the college is on your side. Even if you don't use the services of the LD department, just their presence on campus means that the faculty are more open to different styles of learning. Grechen Loveit was the LD advisor at the time I visited Adrian College and it was clear when I met her that she care about the LD department, the college, and her students. She was a good friend while I was at college.

Finally, they have to have an outstanding department in the area you want to go into. For me it was biology. When I went to visit at Adrian College I asked to meet with the Biology professors as I wanted to be a biologist. When I met Dr. Craig Weatherby I knew this was where I needed to be. He was an enthusiastic professor who appeared to really care about the department and my decision for college (not his college but the right college for me). He is still a good friend 10 years after I graduated.

So how did I make my final decision to go from Topeka Kansas to Adrian Michigan to attend college? Adrian was hands down the best college I looked at. They certainly may not be the best for you so don't go apply just because I had luck there. Money is often a major factor in deciding where to send your child to college so your options may be limited. If you live east of the Mississippi then you will likely have allot of excellent in-state
choices. If you live in the west (including California) your instate choices might be really limited.

Well I hope that helped alittle. Sory about it being so long winded. :O)
Brad Elder

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