The Impact of Growth in Learning Disabilities Diagnoses

March 26, 2010

The growth of diagnoses of learning disabilities is raising issues about fairness and some discomfort among faculty members, but these questions get too little attention, according to a report issued Thursday by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. The report is a mix of national data along with a focus on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And the report notes that while the growing diagnoses may in part relate to earlier detection, there has also been a growth in a testing industry that caters to wealthy families who want a diagnosis so their children can gain extra time on key tests. James Kessler, director of disability services at Chapel Hill, said that the report served a valuable purpose in bringing attention to these issues. But he said that, in addition to faculty members who worry about whether some students are taking advantage of a diagnosis, there are many professors who understand learning disabilities and see the enhanced services as helping students. "We have faculty who call us and say 'I have this young woman who in discussion gets the course, but on a test she doesn't. Can I send her over and see what's up?' "

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