Imagine a College Created for Students with Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism, Executive Function Issues and More!
by Maryanne Clair
Many parents find themselves homeschooling because existing school models are too inflexible or impersonal to allow for the neurodiversity of students they need to serve. Children with learning differences (LD) such as dyslexia, autism, ADHD, and executive function challenges, easily fall through the cracks at large institutions and feel like failures when, in fact, they should feel like an integral part of the human community.
As parents, we struggle to find the right balance of material and the appropriate approach for our children’s learning styles. However, we’ve seen the difference that a more personalized approach can make in truly helping our children excel at and enjoy all that learning can be. So, when it comes time to consider college, it’s important to make sure we’re finding a match where our kids will continue having access to positive educational experiences (and social experiences) rather than a one-size-fits-all institution. It’s hard for any parent to gauge how prepared their child truly is for a college experience, but in cases where school has failed a child before, the process can feel particularly nerve-wracking.
Some students don’t even realize how much they struggle with executive function challenges until reaching college, where they are suddenly more independently responsible for their own schedule, task management, and prioritization. Executive function is particularly challenging for students who already struggle with LD.
Landmark College, founded in 1985, centers its mission around meeting the needs of students who learn differently. The college and its Institute for Research and Training have helped thousands of neurodivergent students to succeed. Among its numerous accomplishments, it was the first institution of higher learning to design college level studies specifically for dyslexic students (dyslexia is the most common learning disability worldwide). Recognized worldwide for its innovative and adaptive approach, Landmark promotes the benefits of neurodiversity in education as well as in society at large. At Landmark you can pursue an Associate or Bachelor’s degree, choose to take courses on campus or online, attend a summer program, try the one-year Transition at College track or Bridge Experience, College START or earn college credit while in high school through Online Dual Enrollment l. Landmark provides diagnostic-specific supports such as executive function coaching, social pragmatics strategies, advanced educational technology, and a language-intensive curriculum to ensure that students achieve to the best of their ability and with a sense of worth and of the joys of learning.
The College is also expanding. It now has a Success Center in San Mateo, California to bring its proven skills and strategies for neurodiverse learners to the Bay Area. Services there include academic supports and executive function coaching such as goal setting and time management, college level learning strategies in active reading and note-taking, among others, and access to technology-based practices that includes gamification. There are plans for social coaching to build independence and autonomy, to enhance self-advocacy skills and build relationships. The learning specialist is available in-person or online, and uses the same best practices and pedagogies offered at the College in Vermont.
What’s more, because of Landmark’s focus on the neurodiverse community, the college knows and caters well to the needs and interests of the homeschooling community. In fact, they have whole sections of their website devoted to information for homeschooling students. The college offers opportunities for homeschooling students to begin preparing for the college transition even before applying. They have short summer and online programs for homeschoolers, and their dual enrollment program serves any high schooler and students taking a gap year with learning disabilities who is preparing for or considering college in the future.
Landmark offers in-person and online college-level courses. Its online courses are designed with best practices for online learning. Courses are personalized and highly supportive for students with dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and executive function challenges.
Spring and Fall college semester courses run for 15 weeks. Online courses allow students to engage in both synchronous activities (scheduled class meetings with other students during scheduled office hours, and interactions with instructors and course advisors via video chat) and asynchronous activities (communications by email, discussion boards, and small recorded lectures and multi-media) that allow students to have more say over their own schedule.
Many homeschool students have already become accustomed to devoting part of their day to virtual learning, and virtual learning is an avenue that colleges have turned to more and more, especially in the midst of the pandemic. However, it’s easy to feel disconnected or underserved when studying online. So, Landmark’s intentional approach to online teaching and its student-focused school ethic sets it apart from many other colleges offering distance learning.
Best of all, the quality of online offerings at Landmark makes it a great place to grow your homeschooler’s abilities during their “high school” years or during a gap year through Landmark’s ONLINE DUAL ENROLLMENT PROGRAM. ROBERT: Make this a pull-quote: The program, offered to juniors, seniors, and gap-year students allows your child to get a taste of the college experience. Landmark makes small class size a priority (classes average 12-14 students). So, your child will get very personalized attention and students can focus more easily on the material being learned when they aren’t simultaneously handling the sensorial overload of a physical school environment. There is now also a scholarship, based on financial need, that students can apply for.
There are a number of concrete strategies that can be taught to LD students planning to pursue higher education, as outlined in the July 28, 2021, article, “Executive Function Skills: The Keys to College Transition,” by Rick Bryck, Ph.D. and Adam Lalor, Ph.D., which can be found on Landmark’s website (www.landmark.edu). Other strategies applied in Landmark’s pedagogy are informed by Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which is an approach to curriculum that minimizes barriers and maximizes learning for all students. Its guidelines offer a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities. (http://www.cast.org).
Landmark makes great use of executive function tools, flexibility, as well as visual and auditory supports in all its courses. Students gain a sense of confidence through learning time management skills and working in groups with other students and the professor. And the online course design makes sure that students meet the same learning outcomes and level of rigor achieved in on-campus courses.
Some of the most popular online courses include:
- Perspectives in Learning
- Introduction to Public Speaking
- Introduction to Programming
- Creative Writing
- Personal Finance
With the number of students currently diagnosed with ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and executive function challenges, it’s surprising more colleges and universities (let alone grade schools) haven’t made serving students with LD a greater priority. Neurodiversity is essential to the fabric of our society, human innovation, and human artistry. Many of our most creative minds have done poorly in schools that meet only the most basic needs of average students.
It’s encouraging to see a place like Landmark College, whose very foundation is based in the value of neurodiversity and meeting the needs of those who learn differently, expanding its offerings and footprint over the last few decades. The demand is there.
So, if you have struggled to find the right tools to meet your child’s educational needs and you are dreading the college plunge or wondering whether your child is really ready for a college experience, I encourage you to take a look at Landmark’s offerings. Environment and teaching style can make a world of difference. If your child is interested in college, it’s important they find a place that makes the experience both appealing and approachable. Visit https://lconline.landmark.edu/ more information. Ω